What a week: Bulls continue trend of hot-shooting foes, trip up Pistons
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DETROIT – Whipsawed by a flurry of injuries on one side and a string of opponents who have taken on the appearance of being able to make 3-point shots while blindfolded on the other, it was a week to forget for the Pistons.
The Chicago Bulls made it four straight losses for the Pistons – who played without Blake Griffin, Derrick Rose, Reggie Jackson and Christian Wood – by becoming the third team this week to register a 40-point quarter and the second to make better than half of their 3-point shots.
“We were down to one true point guard in Tim Frazier tonight and that’s something that’s difficult when you’re trying to win at a high level,” Dwane Casey said after the 119-107 loss in which the Pistons gave up 66 second-half points and were outscored 23-11 over the final eight minutes. “But we’re going to make it work. There’s nobody in the room that’s quitting. At some point, we’re going to get everybody together healthy and on the same page and make a run for it.”
Griffin missed his 15th game – half of the total for the Pistons, who fell to 11-19 – and Rose his sixth. Griffin missed this one with a case of the flu after sitting out Friday with more of the left knee soreness that’s hovered over his season. Rose was listed as probable on the official injury report but was a late scratch with the same malady: left knee soreness.
Luke Kennard played but admitted he’s not the same player who opened eyes in the first month of the season. He’s dealing with tendinitis in both knees, sitting our Friday’s loss at Boston.
“Pushing through some stuff, but that’s all right,” he said. “I want to play and I want to make sure I can help and try to make an impact. I’m not myself at the moment. I’m not the same as I was at the beginning of the season, but I’m working back to it.”
If not for the little-used Frazier – who suffered a left shoulder injury early in the season that set him back – the Pistons wouldn’t have been in position to win it, tied at 96 with eight minutes to play. He hadn’t played more than seven minutes in any game since playing 13 at Miami nearly six weeks ago, but he matched those 13 in the first half alone on Saturday. He finished with season highs in points (13, hitting 5 of 6 shots), assists (nine) and minutes (28) while contributing only one to the Pistons’ total of 16 turnovers.
“That’s not my first time being in a position like that as an NBA player,” Frazier said of being thrown into the fire with little notice. “In my position, you always know your name might get called and you’ve always got to be ready. I try to do the best I can as far as staying in shape, staying ready.”
“I loved the way Tim played tonight,” Casey said. “Hadn’t played in a while. Conditioning had to be a question, but he came in and made good decisions. He was really, really a positive for us tonight.”
The Pistons took a six-point halftime lead, but missing four rotation pieces and playing a back to back against a team that had been off since Wednesday meant the second half was going to test them. They made it all the more difficult by letting Chicago get way too comfortable right out of the gate in the third quarter. The Pistons hadn’t allowed an opponent to score 40 points in any quarter all season before this week. Then Washington did it in Monday’s first quarter, Toronto in Wednesday’s second quarter and Chicago completed the hat trick by getting 40 in Saturday’s third quarter.
The Bulls did it by hitting 14 of 18 shots, including 6 of 8 triples. Underrated key statistic: The Bulls missed four shots during the quarter and still came away with two offensive rebounds. The Pistons, after being outrebounded by 15 in Friday’s loss at Boston, were crushed by a 17-rebound differential against Chicago. Without Wood’s length and Griffin’s physicality, Andre Drummond (19 points, 14 rebounds, five steals) was the only Pistons player with more than four boards.
“We have the best rebounder in the league,” said Kennard, who had four rebounds. “But we can’t count on him to get every single rebound. We have to do our job as guards. We have to rebound better.”
Rebounding, transition defense, torrid 3-point shooting, too many turnovers. As Casey often says, you plug one hole in the dike, another opens somewhere else. Above all, it’s been the injuries that have undercut their season.
“It’s a marathon,” Casey said. “It’s not a sprint. It’s not like the Eastern Conference, the last two, three spots, are running away. But what I want to do at some point with our organization is to win big – not just to eke in the playoffs. At some point, we’re going to get it right.”