Rose, Pistons put themselves in position to finish but come up short in Chicago
Gary Dineen (NBAE/Getty)
CHICAGO – For as much that went wrong – the role reversal in 3-point shooting for the Pistons and Chicago Bulls, foremost – the Pistons found themselves delighted midway through the fourth quarter with a tie game and Derrick Rose on to finish in the building where he mastered the art.
That’s where the game diverged from the script.
Rose spent most of the night validating the “M-V-P! M-V-P!” chants coming from transplanted Pistons fans but mostly from adoring Rose worshippers who watched him actually win the award not all that long ago in a Bulls uniform. Rose finished with 23 points and seven assists despite his limited minutes – 20 seconds less than 25 this time – as the Pistons continue to tread carefully with a player whose injury history is prolific.
And after coming back from a 16-point deficit midway through the third quarter to tie it at the same point of the fourth, the Pistons felt on the verge of a significant early-season road win to put in the bank for when Blake Griffin and Reggie Jackson get back from the injured list.
“We did. We felt good,” said Dwane Casey, who missed the morning shootaround and looked wan after a bout of food poisoning laid him low. “We put ourselves in position to win, but we didn’t start the game the right way and that’s what we’ve got to do. That’s the next step.”
The Pistons might have authored the storybook comeback with Rose at the forefront if not for an ending that amplified the night’s real storyline: 3-point shooting. Chicago came into the game 27th in the NBA at 29.3 percent while the Pistons ranked second at 41.8 percent.
But the Pistons missed their first 14 and finished 6 of 29 for 20.7 percent. Luke Kennard hit 3 of 8 – including two big ones in the fourth quarter – and the rest of the team shot 3 of 21. Chicago, meanwhile, drained 16 of 40, giving the Bulls a whopping 48-18 edge from the arc.
“We know we took the right shots,” Kennard said. “I thought we moved the ball better than we have. We got open looks.”
Kennard turned the conversation to himself – and to his responsibility in helping the Pistons get off to better starts. Thrust into the starting lineup as Casey looks for punch to make up for the gaping void left by Griffin and Jackson’s absences, Kennard has struggled to get going after opening the season on a tear off of the bench. He finished with 15 points, including an eight-point, four-assist fourth quarter.
“I’ve got to be better,” he said. “That’s one of my main jobs is to be a knock-down shooter and make shots, so I can’t wait until late to make a couple when we’re down. I’ve got to do a better job right away to be more aggressive and take the right shots, keep making the right plays.”
For much of the game, it was Rose and Andre Drummond keeping the Pistons within striking distance. Drummond finished with 25 points and 23 rebounds, giving him his second straight 20-20 outing and third in six games this season. With 35 for his career, Drummond moves ahead of Shaquille O’Neal into 18th place all time.
But he, too, lamented the sluggish start that saw the Pistons fall seven points down after a quarter and 16 midway through the second before a late 10-0 run helped pare the deficit to five at halftime.
“Fourth quarter we came out and played with a lot of energy,” he said. “We did what we were supposed to do from the start of the game – not wait until halftime to wake up. Granted, we did come back in the fourth to tie it up, but with a team that is having such a good run throughout the game, they picked it up again and knocked those shots down they were knocking down early. They were so comfortable early in the game – it came back to bite us.”
To be sure, every time it looked like the Pistons might fully seize momentum, the Bulls answered with a big shot – usually a triple. When Langston Galloway’s triple with 6:14 left tied the game, Thaddeus Young answered with a three. When Tony Snell’s layup with 3:46 to go gave the Pistons their only lead since the early going, Zach LaVine answered 14 seconds later with a 27-footer.
Snell had a wide-open corner three to tie with 32 seconds left but missed. Kennard had an open look with 14 seconds left to cut it to one but missed.
“That’s the story of the game,” Casey said. “You’ve got Thaddeus Young making threes. You’ve got Otto Porter making threes. They’ve been struggling. We’re missing our threes, the ones we usually made and were wide open. But it’s a make or miss league. We’ve got to continue to take ’em. We’ve got to step into them with conviction and go from there because I liked the way we played the last three quarters.”
But three quarters isn’t good enough for a team missing a 1-2 punch like Griffin and Jackson and especially on a night they give the other team a 30-point head start from the 3-point arc.
“We were down for most of the game and the way we fought back started on the defensive end,” Kennard said. “We really locked in and communicated well. It was good the way we fought to come back and proud of the team for that. But it’s just putting together a full 48.”