Bulls Lament Missed Chances
Posted May 8 2007 8:02PM
There were open looks, lapses on both ends, and it was all right there for the Chicago Bulls to bemoan as they watched the videotape on Tuesday and relived their latest ugly loss to the Detroit Pistons.
As unsightly as it was, they also saw reason for optimism, even though they were blown out 108-87 in Game 2 of this second-round series after losing the opener 95-69. Game 3 is Thursday at the United Center, where the Bulls led the Eastern Conference with 31 home victories.
"Obviously, we're discouraged, a little disappointed,'' Gordon said. "There are plenty of opportunities for us to do good things out there.''
The Bulls did little well the first two games, and now, they're in a hole from which few teams have emerged. Only 12 have won a best-of-seven series after dropping the first two games.
The Bulls looked young and shell-shocked, like they hadn't been to the second round, and they were no match for an experienced, poised Pistons team that has been there and won it all. Of course, this is Chicago's first appearance in the second round since the Michael Jordan-Scottie Pippen era, and Detroit won the championship three years ago and got to the finals in 2005.
"Just because we won the first two games, that has no bearing on what's going to happen in Game 3,'' Detroit coach Flip Saunders said.
But the Pistons have dominated Chicago in this series, after dropping three of four in the regular season. The Bulls set franchise playoff lows with 69 points and 23 field goals in the opener, then made 23 shots again in Game 2. Chicago is shooting 33.6 percent overall and is 9-for-37 on 3-pointers after hitting 38.8 percent - second in the league - in the regular season.
Meanwhile, the Pistons are 48.1 percent from the field and 18-of-37 from long range.
They're outhustling a Bulls team that showed enough energy to light up the United Center during a first-round sweep of defending champion Miami - or at least draw eardrum splitting screams from the fans. They're scooping up loose balls, and having their way with Chicago on the boards, where they have a 97-68 edge after being outrebounded in all four regular-season games.
"We probably talked more the last two weeks about pursuing the basketball and not just getting contact, but really pursuing the ball,'' Saunders said. "Our guards have really been locked in as far as long rebounds, which always helps.''
The Pistons' backcourt has dominated Chicago's, with Richard Hamilton outscoring Kirk Hinrich 44-17, and Gordon battling foul problems. He has a total of 20 points in two games, after averaging 25.5 against Miami, and forward Luol Deng is having a tough time eluding Tayshaun Prince. He's averaging 17 points after scoring 26.3 per game in the first round.
"We hungry, focused, locked in. We're locked in to what we want to do right now,'' Detroit's Chauncey Billups said.
The Pistons ascended to the NBA's elite on the strength of their defense, and even with four-time defensive player of the year Ben Wallace now in a Bulls uniform, that hasn't changed much. They held opponents to 91.84 points per game - the second-lowest average in the league - on 44.5-percent shooting.
Although Skiles said no major changes are coming, he did indicate there might be one tweak. Deng and the hobbled Andres Nocioni will switch defensive assignments - with Nocioni guarding Rasheed Wallace and Deng taking on Prince, who is averaging 19.0 points in this series.
Skiles seemed more concerned with the Bulls' failure to take advantage of opportunities.
Nocioni was called for traveling a couple times after passing up open shots, and he wasn't the only one making mistakes like that.
"Just an example of what's going on, we're driving in, we're pitching it out to him,'' Skiles said Nocioni, who is bothered by a foot problem that caused him to miss 28 of 29 games during one stretch. "He's wide open He's shot-faking and traveling. He's open. That's his shot. That's his game.''
The Bulls made Miami look old in the first round, and a young core took a big step in its progression after suffering back-to-back first-round exits against Washington and the Heat. They seemed to be on the verge of becoming the NBA's "it'' team. If they keep this up they'll soon be an "out'' team.
Did they buy into the hype?
"Maybe so,'' guard Chris Duhon said. "We came off a great series where we shot the ball amazingly against Miami. Sometimes you get into that feeling where it's going to be like that all the time. Detroit, when they changed things and did some things differently, we kind of got shocked by that.''
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