Bulls lose to Pistons, 114-91

Nothing appears to have been set up quite yet, But if the Illinois Tollway Authority is considering how to speed up traffic for the I-PASS lane, they might consult the Bulls. Because the Bulls don’t appear to be putting up much resistance to traffic.

“I am disappointed in us not getting back,” said Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg Wednesday after the 114-91 loss to the Detroit Pistons. “We had a couple turnovers that were home runs on the other end. They just went right down for layups and they consistently beat us down the floor, especially in the fourth quarter, which was a debacle. They were 24-9 in fast break points in their favor. You can’t do that. Especially in your home building. We just did not generate the energy early on. The fact that we were not getting back on transition defense, that’s the disappointing thing. That is something that we should be able to take care of every night, and it will be a big emphasis in practice the next few days.”

The Bulls were led by E’Twaun Moore with 16 points, Aaron Brooks with 13 and Doug McDermott with 12. Bobby Portis had 11 points and three rebounds in 21 minutes with five fouls. Reggie Jackson led Detroit with 20 points as the Pistons shot 54.4 percent overall and nine of 21 on threes. The Bulls shot 41.6 percent and six of 21 on threes.

The Bulls are now 2-3 in the preseason, which is not of major concern, especially with Derrick Rose out, Taj Gibson playing his first preseason game Wednesday, Pau Gasol and Joakim Noah each missing two games and Mike Dunleavy missing. Plus, Hoiberg has experimented with lineups, rotations and young players, some of whom won’t make the regular season roster. Still, it’s been an unfamiliar site to see the United Center scoreboard blinking into triple digits early in the fourth quarter.

The Bulls are giving up just under 110 points per game and about 114 the last four games. The new, faster, flowing, three-point shooting offense is nice, the Bulls averaging about 104 per game. But who figured on the faster, flowing, three-point giving up defense?

“Our defense is lackadaisical right now,” acknowledged Gibson, who looked sprightly in about 10 minutes easing back. “We have guys capable of doing a lot better. Young guys have to lock in better; that’s our fault (the veterans). We have to challenge them in practice, challenge ourselves. But these things are correctable. Our offense has been great. I saw it, I felt it (playing) so wide open. I had a good time. But this is going to take time. We have a few more games and practices yet. Watch some film and let it tell us what we need to do.”

It really shouldn’t be a major concern yet given the circumstances of Hoiberg installing a more free wheeling offense (which is going to allow more points even at its best), trying to limit playing time in the preseason to build for later in the season and experimenting with different lineups, rotations and positions.

For example, Hoiberg started Pau Gasol at center, Joakim Noah at power forward and Nikola Mirotic at small forward for the first time.

It may well be the last time as the Pistons jumped out to an early 10-point lead. Hoiberg started Gasol at center for the second half with Mirotic back at power forward and Doug McDermott at small forward. Noah came off the bench.

“I wanted to get that big lineup out there,” said Hoiberg. “Obviously with as many bigs as we have right now a lot of guys are going to have a chance to play minutes in the rotation. I wanted to try Niko at some three. We weren’t very energetic out of the gate. We fought back and played a little better in the second quarter.”

It was 28-21 Pistons after one quarter and then thanks to a strong sequence by Portis with nine points in five minutes, the Bulls pulled within 51-50 at halftime. With Mirotic back at power forward and making back to back threes and McDermott adding another, the Bulls took a 67-60 lead midway through the third quarter. But the Bulls were casual with the ball all game, frequently making lazy cross court passes that were picked off. The Pistons led 76-75 after three quarters and by a point three minutes into the fourth quarter before a 15-0 Detroit run against a lineup of mostly Portis, Moore, McDermott, Jordan Crawford and Cristiano Felicio turned the game into a rout.

So it’s not exactly like the Bulls were desperate for the victory.

It’s still mostly about Hoiberg learning who he has and what they can do and with whom.

But there’s only three preseason games left. Not much more time for qualifications about it only being preseason.

Decisions will have to be made.

And Wednesday could mean the end of the notion that Gasol and Noah would start together again. Hoiberg hasn’t committed to anything, though he said he’ll begin to develop a more consistent rotation in next week’s games and have regulars playing the fourth quarter.

“I think it’s not me and Pau,” said Noah. “Our whole team has to play better defense. We’re a work in progress; everything is new. Just have to be patient. I think right now everybody is not happy with our defensive effort, but it’s going to get better. I think coach is going to have a lot of decisions to make in terms of matchups and things like that. Whatever coach (does) I’m cool with it.”

There was an encouraging sight as Rose shot around with teammates before the game for about 30 minutes. Though it was obvious Rose’s left eye where he had the orbital fracture surgery was still swollen. Rose actually shot well for literally squinting as he shot. Hoiberg said Rose would be at practice Thursday and return to going over plays and new philosophies. Hoiberg previously said Rose would not play in any of the exhibition games. It seems questionable whether Rose would be ready for the Oct. 27 opening game given the current condition of his eye. But if the swelling receded soon and with a mask that certainly could change.

Kirk Hinrich rested and Moore started again at point guard. Though Moore is scoring well in preseason averaging 11.7 points, he tends to look for his own shot more frequently, as does Brooks. Though both seem to be prospering with the new offensive style. Jimmy Butler continued to try to facilitate. He shot four of 10, making several mid range jumpers. But he still isn’t making three pointers, two for eight in the preseason from long range.

But Gasol starting both halves at center got just five shot attempts as the Bulls still are trying to find the balance between pulling up for jump shots early in the shot clock and working inside.

This also hasn’t been an ideal situation for a new coach with a new system with injured and resting players.

Wednesday’s game finished a stretch of five games in nine days, traveling about 3,000 miles through the West and into Canada and without any days for practice. The Bulls now don’t play again until Monday in Charlotte. So they’ll have time to develop some coordination on defense—which is impossible playing so many different lineups and rotations—and begin to settle into something approaching their regular season look.

“We haven’t put it together for 48 minutes yet,” agreed Noah. “We’ll be better when everyone is back; that’s for sure. We have to do better (defensively). These are big numbers (against us) right now. We have to have some really good practices. I know I have to do better. I have to be a better leader. I have to understand the system better. It will happen; it’s going to happen.”