Constricting Chicago D holds Pistons to 81 in 15-point loss
CHICAGO – Maurice Cheeks wants the Pistons to force turnovers, pressure for 94 feet, play constricting half-court defense otherwise and get out and run. The Chicago Bulls gave his team a working seminar in his preferred style during brilliant stretches of basketball Wednesday night at the United Center.
A full house came mainly to see the return of Derrick Rose, playing before the home crowd for the first time since shredding his knee in the 2011 playoffs, and that contributed to an unusual preseason atmosphere. Rose is back, all right – he had 18 points on just six shots, hitting 9 of 10 free throws, in 14 first-half minutes and finished with 22 points in 22 minutes – and the Bulls are again the gold standard in the Central Division.
“He looked like the old Rose is what he looked like to me, the old Rose,” Cheeks said. “One time he got in front of our bench, got a handoff from somebody and two, three dribbles, he was at the rim. He didn’t look like he lost a stop to me. He was as quick as he’s ever been.”
For the Pistons to challenge the Bulls this season, they’ll need to develop the type of defensive cohesion and mind-set Chicago has manufactured over time since adding Rose and hiring Tom Thibodeau five seasons ago. It’s the kind of stuff that doesn’t happen overnight and is especially elusive when a team is without its top three guards, as the Pistons again were missing Brandon Jennings, Rodney Stuckey and Chauncey Billups.
“Their defense kind of stifled us,” said Cheeks, a good friend of Thibodeau’s dating to their time together in Philadelphia. “Kept the ball on one side of the floor, really. Offensively, they had Rose pushing the ball up, getting to the rim. They made some shots. They’ve been good for a while and Rose makes them an elite team.”
The Pistons took relatively good care of the basketball, committing 14 turnovers, but the Bulls made them pay by turning them into 20 points. More critically, they forced the Pistons countless times into tough shots late in the clock that often wound up in transition scoring chances. Kyle Singler picked up three quick fouls in the first half, two of them when he was forced to foul to prevent transition layups. He picked up his fourth less than a minute into the third quarter the same way.
“Chicago played great defense,” Singler said. “We don’t really want to focus on what other teams are doing. Tonight, we didn’t come out with the proper effort or energy to play the way we wanted and what Mo was talking about. I was disappointed I got into foul trouble because it affected my playing time. We don’t want to pick up fouls in kind of stupid situations like that.”
The Pistons shot 32.5 percent, were under 30 percent through three quarters and trailed by 21 at halftime after cutting an 11-point deficit to two in the early going of the second quarter. If there was a bright spot in the first half, it was a stretch of defense displayed by the rookie backcourt of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Peyton Siva. Their pressure on Bulls backups Kirk Hinrich and Marquis Teague impressed Cheeks.
“I liked those guys’ energy overall,” he said. “I liked the way they played. They didn’t back down. They weren’t afraid. It’s hard to come in here – and I said that to them – it’s hard to play against Chicago like that, being rookies and being able to come into Chicago and play well.”
Caldwell-Pope played 40 minutes, in part due to Singler’s foul trouble, and led the Pistons with 18 points and seven rebounds. He’d been active in the first three preseason games, averaging 6.3 rebounds, but had shot just 1 of 16 from the 3-point line. He hit 3 of 4 from the arc against Chicago.
“With (Rose) coming back, it was a great atmosphere,” he said. “They played well. They came out and jumped on us. I’m feeling way more comfortable. I’m just coming in, giving all I’ve got every time I get in.”
No Pistons starter approached 50 percent from the field. Will Bynum was 0 of 8, Andre Drummond 1 of 7 and Greg Monroe 3 of 11. The Pistons shot under 30 percent through three quarters.
Cheeks made a point of singling out Jonas Jerebko, who hit a couple of first-half jump shots – both off simple, efficient feeds from Siva – when the Pistons were struggling for any offense and finished with 14 points and four rebounds in 25 minutes.
“I liked the way Jonas played,” he said. “I liked the way (Charlie) Villanueva (eight points, four rebounds, 3 of 5 shooting in 13 minutes) played. I liked the way a lot of guys played, but that’s a good basketball team, so we’ve got to get better.”