The Bulls’ abundance of bigs prompted Fred Hoiberg testing his team’s versatility against Detroit, where they went to a jumbo set.
Well, being a step slow defensively with a frontline of Joakim Noah, Pau Gasol and Nikola Mirotic caused Hoiberg to abandon that lineup after halftime, as he went with a more conventional group.
But as much as it appeared to help early in the second half, the Pistons made a decisive push early in the fourth to pull away, winning 114-91 at the United Center.
The Pistons went on a 15-0 run, literally. They got out on the break against the Bulls reserves, taking advantage of their disjointed offense as Pistons reserve Reggie Bullock made transition triple after transition triple to close things out.
“Disappointed in not getting back, is the big thing,” said Hoiberg of the 38-point Pistons fourth quarter. “We had a couple turnovers that were home runs on the other end. Just went right down for layups. Then consistently beat us down the floor in the fourth quarter. You can’t do that, especially in your home building.”
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By then, though, Hoiberg likely saw everything he needed to see from his regular rotation players, starting with the jumbo lineup, a unit he didn’t start in the second half, bringing Noah off the bench. They had trouble keeping the mammoth Andre Drummond away from the offensive glass, and couldn’t contain versatile forward Marcus Morris, who made his first five shots from the field.
“They were more energetic from the gate and jumped to a 10-point lead on us,” Hoiberg said.
There aren’t many rebounders or athletes in the mold of Drummond (14 points, 10 rebounds), but the Bulls can’t afford to be this complacent on the glass. And their defense clearly leaves plenty to be desired from their head coach, who gave a short, yet succinct, answer when asked if he was satisfied with the defense at this stage of training camp.
“No,” the usually elaborative Hoiberg said, then looked away in disgust at the thought of where the defense is.
Later, though, he opened up, telling everyone what they’d already seen from the first five games of the preseason.
“Pick and roll defense, especially in the middle of the floor,” Hoiberg said. “We’re giving too many blow by’s, where there’s nothing you can do for it. We gotta guard the ball better.”
Not guarding up top opens things up for Drummond, who’s a load even when the perimeter is contained. He tallied 10 and six against the big frontline, manhandling Gasol and Noah, as Noah made his return from missing the last preseason game as a precautionary measure after bumping knees with Denver’s Kenneth Faried.
“We had good stretches and terrible stretches,” Gasol said.
The good stretches came courtesy of Bobby Portis and Aaron Brooks offensively in the second quarter, as they slowly chipped at an early Pistons lead, with Portis matching the athleticism of the Pistons’ frontline and Brooks scoring in bunches, as he usually does.
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Noah actually didn’t look bad, scoring eight points with nine rebounds, with Taj Gibson making his preseason debut after offseason ankle surgery, scoring four points in 10 minutes.
“Taj was good his first time out,” Hoiberg said.
E’Twaun Moore led the Bulls with 16 points and four assists on 8-of-15 shooting, starting at point guard as Hoiberg continues to juggle lineups and evaluate personnel.
Reggie Jackson led the Pistons with 20 points and Bullock, battling for a spot on Stan Van Gundy’s team, made seven of eight shots to score 17. He led late blitz that made the competitive game look like a laugher in the end.
“The thing we were doing, the guards who were supposed to get back were crashing (the boards),” Hoiberg said. “You can’t do that. It just can’t happen.”
Doug McDermott scored in double figures again, with 12 points in 34 minutes, along with Portis’ 11 and Brooks’ 13.
But scoring wasn’t the problem, as the Bulls allowed the Pistons to shoot 54 percent and sent them to the foul line 21 times, giving Hoiberg something to harp on with a handful of days before their next preseason game, Monday in Charlotte.