Pistons deal Bulls first loss of the season in OT affair


Pistons deal Bulls first loss of the season in OT affair

Winning in spite of a couple mortal sins obscured a couple unalienable truths for the Bulls early this season.

They can’t turn the ball over 20 times, nor can their defensive intensity come and go but most of all, they can’t win without Derrick Rose being some reasonable facsimile of himself.

And they can’t bully the Detroit Pistons anymore, especially not in the Palace of Auburn Hills, a place that’s become a house of horrors in the last two years. After a fourth quarter of driving to the basket, Derrick Rose’s potential winning jumper went wide and the Pistons took over in the extra five, giving them a 98-94 overtime win Friday night.

Fred Hoiberg didn’t call a timeout after the last defensive stop and trusted Rose to make the right play, and he had been going to the basket in the fourth quarter at all.

“He took the step back jumper,” Hoiberg said. “We want to attack in those situations. He came over at the huddle and said he wished he could have it over again.”

[SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]

Andre Drummond, the man whose massive frame likely prevented Rose from going to the basket on that final regulation play, took over in overtime to complete his 20-point, 20-rebound night.

“He took away my drive, I should’ve pump-faked but it’s a learning experience,”  Rose said. “A young guy was (defending) me too, takes one to really learn next time. I was aiming at the wrong basket.”

Hoiberg was willing to cut Rose slack, considering he’s still going through the double vision and he hasn’t gone through a training camp which has set him back a bit.

Checking it off as an aberration could be the easiest way of filing Rose’s performance, but it’s another illustration of the starts and re-starts he’s had throughout his career.

And Pistons point guard Reggie Jackson made life miserable for the Bulls, getting into the lane at will and challenging the Bulls bigs, getting them out of position on the way to 22 points on nine of 24 shooting with seven rebounds and seven assists.

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The new and tough Pistons scored the first seven points of overtime, a remarkable feat considering each team had trouble seeing straight—as if everybody on the floor suffered from Rose’s double vision.

After shooting 50 percent in Brooklyn, the Bulls offense didn’t carry over—especially their late-game plays, reverted back to old habits, going isolation-heavy and not doing the little things that make this setup potent, shooting 40 percent from the field.

But their turnovers did, another 20 giveaway performance along with being outrebounded by the Pistons 61-50, mostly on the back of Drummond, and giving up 20 offensive rebounds allowed the Pistons to take 20 more shots.

The Pistons actually shot worse from the field, from the 3-point line and free-throw line, yet the Bulls miscues took away whatever advantage the Pistons’ offensive struggles created for them.

“I can’t put a finger on it,” Rose said. “I don’t know if it’s getting into the sets quicker or playing at a faster pace. We gotta look at the film.”

Rose turned it over five times and wouldn’t attribute it to playing the third game in four nights. Jimmy Butler didn’t want to hear that school of thought, either.

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“Being reckless with the ball, just being careless,” Butler said. “That and offensive rebounds. We’re just being lazy with the ball. It’s easily correctable.”

Surprisingly, Joakim Noah only played 17 minutes with Drummond wrecking havoc on everyone wearing black Bulls jerseys, leaving Hoiberg in the position of trying to get the glass under control while his offense kept sputtering without a rhythm.

With Rose going scoreless for three quarters, Nikola Mirotic (22 points) and Pau Gasol (16 points, 12 rebounds) attempted to pick up that slack, likely making Hoiberg’s decision for him, and Butler had his hands full with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Marcus Morris.

One was in his chest defensively (Caldwell-Pope) while the other made him work on defense (Morris), with the latter scoring 15 in the third to break up the offensive lethargy, including the jumper to open overtime.

Butler struggled all night, scoring 23 but missing 14 of his 19 shots, including a triple that could’ve cut the Pistons’ lead to one with six seconds left in overtime, making it a slim chance for a comeback.

But the Pistons couldn’t contain Drummond and didn’t display any of the rhythm that was on display for parts of the first two wins, and perhaps the Pistons sent the Bulls a little message that they won’t be going away so easily this time around.

Bulls are unlocking something with Zach LaVine: 'He was terrific'

Bulls are unlocking something with Zach LaVine: 'He was terrific'

MINNEAPOLIS—The applause was thunderous on the welcome back for Kris Dunn and Zach LaVine, two Timberwolves draft picks sent away when the chance to acquire Jimmy Butler came along.

But some of the air was taken out the Target Center due to the absence of Jimmy Butler, who’ll miss the next several weeks after deciding to have surgery on his right meniscus following an injury Friday night.

So while there was no rematch of the thrilling contest the two teams had in Chicago, some things were very much the same.

Lauri Markkanen’s struggles continued.

LaVine showed more flashes of his complete game and Dunn had a couple moments of his own.

And on the other side, Tom Thibodeau kept his starters in the game with victory secured and his team up 20 points in the Timberwolves’ 122-104 win over the Bulls Saturday night.

The Timberwolves broke the game open in the fourth quarter with some key shot-making from veteran Jamal Crawford, as he was one point short of the Timberwolves having four 20-point scorers on the night.

Jeff Teague, Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins combined for 70 points in their first game of many without Butler.

LaVine was a main reason the Bulls stayed afloat in the first 36 minutes, finishing with 21 points, seven assists and six rebounds in his first game back in front of the Minneapolis crowd he spent his first few years playing for.

Going head-up with his former teammate Wiggins for a stretch, the two seemed to relish their practice matchups. Wiggins was doing a lot of pure scoring while LaVine seemed to enjoy probing the defense and making plays for teammates, taking more of a ballhandling role as opposed to floating around the perimeter for 3-point attempts.

“He’s doing a much better job not settling for tough shots,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “He’s attacking the basket much better than he was. You can just see him getting his legs, getting more comfortable. It was good to see him as a playmaker, he was terrific.”

Perhaps the Bulls are unlocking something with LaVine, getting him the ball in different places and on the move, where he made some nifty passes in traffic, exercising patience and maturity.

“I liked it. Hopefully we get a little bit more of it,” LaVine said. “But it’s working. Should’ve stuck to it.”

They didn’t, as the Bulls didn’t look as organized as they have previously. Dunn looked extremely motivated and aggressive but it seemed to work against him at times as Teague took advantage of Dunn being too quick for his own good. So hyped up, Dunn blew a breakaway dunk in the first half, but luckily Nwaba was right behind him for a putback.

That type of energy was expected for Dunn and LaVine, maybe even moreso for Dunn considering his underwhelming rookie year where he didn’t get much chance to play as a top-five pick.

Dunn finished with 10 points on four of 12 shooting while Cameron Payne scored 11  in 19 minutes, but the decision making from both point guards left plenty to be desired—which is to be expected given the lack of veterans on the floor.

Their starting unit again struggled as Justin Holiday and Robin Lopez again sat as the evaluation of the younger players continued.

Cristiano Felicio had a better outing than his foul-plagued game against Philadelphia, scoring 11 points but had his hands full on the other end. David Nwaba impressed for the second straight game as a starter, getting in the open floor to force the action, scoring 14 with nine rebounds in 34 minutes.

“The second quarter, I thought, was one of our better quarters of the year,” Hoiberg said. “As bad as we played in the first quarter, I thought we were down 20. We just didn’t sustain it. Against a great team like that, it’s gonna cost you.”

Nwaba, along with Bobby Portis, was a big reason why the Timberwolves couldn’t run away from the Bulls until well into the fourth quarter, even after taking a double-digit lead in the first quarter and sending Hoiberg scrambling for early timeouts.

“You can expect it because you haven’t played with that group before,” LaVine said. “We’re gonna get that chemistry down. We (only) had a couple practices with that lineup.”

Whether it’s the lineup change or just the rookie blues, the year has clearly caught up with Markkanen, who only made one field goal in 32 minutes.

“Gotta get some extra shots up. I see myself thinking too much,” Markkanen said. “That’s how it is. Of course it’s frustrating to not make shots but it is what it is. Gotta work through it.”

Markkanen has gone one-for-eight in each game coming from the All-Star break and missed all seven of his 3-point attempts.

“He’s shooting the heck out of the ball in practice,” Hoiberg said. “He’s struggling right now with his confidence, no question about it. As a shooter, you gotta keep looking to be aggressive, take the open ones. It takes one game to get that confidence back.”

Jimmy Butler's injury produced memories for Zach LaVine, Fred Hoiberg

Jimmy Butler's injury produced memories for Zach LaVine, Fred Hoiberg

MINNEAPOLIS — That feeling of having your knee buckle out of nowhere, Zach LaVine is all-too familiar with it.

That feeling of being on the sidelines and watching Jimmy Butler’s knee give out, Fred Hoiberg has been there, too.

Different perspectives, and different reactions but Butler’s knee injury produced a sick feeling to many who watched it Friday night. Butler turned to pivot in the Timberwolves’ game against the Houston Rockets and immediately collapsed on the floor, having to be carried off.

LaVine tore his ACL in Detroit over a year ago, while it was revealed Butler suffered a right meniscus injury. But it looked all the same and LaVine understood the uncertainty Butler must’ve been feeling before the MRI revealed it wasn’t an ACL injury.

“It’s scary,” LaVine said following morning shootaround at the Target Center Saturday afternoon. “I wish him the best. You don’t want to see that happen to anybody. Especially a player of his caliber and what he’s done for the team.”

When LaVine injured his ACL, he actually played a few more minutes before being removed and going to the locker room. The time between being evaluated by doctors and them coming back feels like a lifetime.

“It’s scary. You know you hurt yourself, you don’t know how bad,” LaVine said. “You think you’re good, you’re a tough minded person trying to get through it.”

“I saw him on the ground trying to get up, (Rockets guard) Chris Paul made him sit down. Jimmy’s a tough dude. Thoughts and prayers going out to him.”

Butler and LaVine were the centerpieces of the draft day trade involving the Bulls and Timberwolves. With Butler suffering the injury the night before playing his former team a second time, the timing produced a bunch of memories.

In Hoiberg’s first year with the Bulls, Butler went down in a somewhat similar manner in Denver, a non-contact injury. It looked just as bad, and Butler was taken off the floor in a wheelchair.

Thankfully it was a right knee strain that cost him several weeks but it wasn’t as bad as it looked. Considering the minutes he’s played over the last few years, Hoiberg was asked if Butler pushes himself too hard to be on the floor.

“Jimmy he wants to be out there,” Hoiberg said. “I remember the first year in Denver, he went down with what looked to be a serious injury. Thankfully he was back on the floor after 15-16 games.”

Actually, Butler missed 11 consecutive games before coming back for a nationally-televised game against the Rockets, playing 34 minutes in a Bulls win and missing the next three games for recovery.

“We really worried when he went down but it wasn’t something that ended his season,” Hoiberg said. “Jimmy’s a worker. He’s one of the hardest working guys I’ve seen. It’s a huge reason for the type of player he is, that work ethic to make him one of the elite players in the league.”