The Bulls Friday started off fast and then sputtered under the pressure of the Pistons, the Bulls engine stalling in a 99-83 loss.
The Bulls accelerated to start with a 26-21 first quarter lead the Bulls pushed up double digits midway through the second quarter leading 39-29. But it was like there was diesel in their tank after that while Blake Griffin with 25 points fueled the Pistons drive. Talk about your internal combustion. The Pistons took a lead at halftime and pulled away throughout the second half.
The Bulls were led by Cameron Payne with a career high equalling 17 points. Kris Dunn had 13 points as the only other Bull scoring in double figures. Zach LaVine was clearly frustrated at three of 15 for eight points. Lauri Markkanen was three of 12 for six points. Bobby Portis was one of 10 for two points. The Bulls had eight assists in the first quarter and 11 combined in the last three quarters as they reverted to isolation play.
The Bulls fell to 22-43. They play in Atlanta Sunday. The Pistons are 30-36 and desperately trying to climb back into a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
Paul Zipser remained out with a foot injury. Antonio Blakeney joined the team from the G-league. Robin Lopez and Justin Holiday returned to the starting lineup under the league’s suggestion regarding healthy players on the road. Both had an immediate impact, especially Lopez with nine first quarter points and making all four of his shots, including his third three pointer of his career and a driving left handed hook.
Holiday added six first quarter points as the previously sitting duo had 15 of the Bulls 26 in the first quarter as the Bulls led 26-21. The Bulls got that fast start coach Fred Hoiberg talked about, sending Detroit into a timeout with the Bulls leading 8-2 as Markkanen opened with a dunk and LaVine drove for scores. Dunn had a full court drive and score after Andre Drummond missed a dunk. The Bulls pace and movement was improved as they had eight assists on 11 first quarter baskets and 16 points in the paint to eight for the Pistons. Payne had his best run with the Bulls to open the second quarter as the Bulls grabbed a 39-29 lead. Payne had eight points making three of four attempts and a pair of threes. His hustle also forced early turnovers from the Pistons. But the Pistons closed going back to their starters with an 11-2 run to draw even. LaVine got blocked with 4.5 seconds left and Griffin ran out and was fouled as the half ended, making two free throws for a 49-47 Detroit lead at halftime. Griffin had 15 in the half while the Bulls cooled to 39 percent second quarter shooting and four assists on nine scores.
Hoiberg them switched up with Lopez and Holiday back on the bench to start the second half for Portis and David Nwaba. They couldn’t get much going with just one basket in the first five minutes of the third as the Pistons eased ahead 56-50 as Griffin dropped in a three and then a slam dunk after LaVine was stripped on a drive. The Piston began to pull way ahead 63-52 midway through the third quarter. Payne added a late three pointer, his third in three attempts, though it was a desperate third quarter for the Bulls as they trailed 73-62 after three quarters. Holiday and Lopez each played the entire first quarter and then neither played again. The Bulls shot just 24 percent in a brutal third quarter, outscored 24-15. The walls continued to collapse in on the Bulls in the fourth quarter as the Pistons opened up an 80-64 lead with 9:33 left in the game and it mostly worsened from there for the Bulls.