Bulls

Pistons deal Bulls first loss of the season in OT affair

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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.

[MORE: Nobody can get their story straight on Noah going to bench]

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.

Kris Dunn thinks Zach LaVine could be 'a good defender in this league'

Kris Dunn thinks Zach LaVine could be 'a good defender in this league'

We all know what Zach LaVine is capable of doing on the offensive side of things. But what about his defense?

It's no secret that LaVine has had his fair share of struggles on defense, but Kris Dunn thinks highly of his 23-year-old teammate and what his potential is at the other end.

"On the defensive end I just told him, 'You're as fast as me. You're more athletic than me. There's no way you shouldn't be a good defender in this league. You could be one of those guys who could be dynamic in the passing lanes because you're so athletic and fast.'" Dunn said of LaVine. "And personally, I like to score. If you get in a passing lane, that's a dunk for yourself and because you've got so much bounce that's when you get the crowd on their feet — maybe do a windmill, a 360, something.

"But I think he's been going a good job on the defensive end. It's not going to be easy. We all got to learn and I think we're all trying."

Improving his defense would obviously be a big step forward for LaVine (and the Bulls), and he knows it. 

“I think I had a lot better focus on the defensive end,” LaVine said when assessing his preseason. “I had some mistakes too, but I wanted to go out there and just really hone in on being more focused down there. I felt like I did OK with that. Still some areas I want to get better at, definitely off-the-ball I think I did a lot better than I had before.’’

LaVine and the Bulls travel to Philadelphia to face the 76ers on Thursday night in their season opener. You can watch Bulls Pre- and Postgame Live on NBC Sports Chicago before and after the game for highlights and analysis.

3 keys for Bulls in season opener against the Philadelphia 76ers

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USA TODAY

3 keys for Bulls in season opener against the Philadelphia 76ers

1. Provide help defense on Joel Embiid early and often. Embiid's high usage rate means going to score regardless, and has even added moves like a step-back jumper that he can go to comfortably from 15-feet. But if you make him see multiple defenders and force him to be unsettled, you can harass him into poor shooting nights like Boston did (Embiid shot 9-for-21 on Tuesday night). There were plays where as soon as Embiid took one or two dribbles, a help defender—even a guard—was flying in to go for block shot opportunities.

Wendell Carter Jr. earned the starting center job with his ahead-of-his-age defensive IQ, but no matter how ahead of the curve he is, stopping Embiid will take a group effort. He can become enamored with the 3-point shot, so the Bulls will have to work together to coax Embiid into taking poor shot attempts. Boston did a great job of denying him deep post position om Tuesday night, cutting off the Sixers' easiest source of offensive production.

Wendell Carter Jr. will get his first big defensive test on Thursday night, as he will have to use his lower body strength to prevent Embiid's low post dominance. We have seen Carter struggle with bigger low post scorers in the preseason, and if the Bulls don't provide help fast, Carter will be in trouble.

If Carter does what many rookies do, and tries to use his hands to stop Embiid from gaining ground, the referees will call a foul quickly, especially since he is a rookie learning the ropes. Helpside defense will be the difference in this game for the Bulls.

2. Get back quickly and build a wall on transition defense. Below is the combined shot chart of Embiid and Ben Simmons from Tuesday night against the Celtics. Notice where the attempts are mostly concentrated. 

Ben Simmons and Embiid like to put pressure on the opposing defense by putting pressure on the front of the basket, and with good reason. They are both dominant finishers in the paint and questionable outside shooters.

In 207-18 Embiid shot 57 percent when 0-3 feet from the basket, Simmons shot a staggering 83 percent in the 0-3 foot range, which is even more impressive when you consider that defenses are gameplanning for his drives. We all know that Simmons will likely never be an even average 3-point shooter, and Embiid shot a dreadful 25 percent from the 3-point line last season despite a career-high 214 attempts. But the above the break 3-point shot is a major part of the Philadelphia offense, with Embiid shooting a much better 30.4 percent on above the break 3-pointers. 

Chicago would be wise to let the Sixers get these shots. 

In transition Simmons (or Markelle Fultz) will run the break with Embiid trailing directly behind them, either looking for a straight-line drive to the basket or an above the break 3-pointer after their forward momentum has been stopped. 

If the Bulls can summon the words of former Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy and form a wall around the restricted area, they can wall off aggressive drives from the Sixers young, dynamic duo. The Bulls need to force this game to be about turnovers and free throw makes, areas in which the Sixers have struggled last season (dead-last in the league in turnovers and 23rd in FT percentage).

3. Force the defense to move side-to-side. Philadelphia had a top-five defensive rating last season, and a big reason for that was that while the Sixers would often switch one through four, they wouldn't switch the five, meaning Embiid was often dropping back on pick-and-roll D and stationing himself near the basket. Staying as close as possibe to the rim obviously is beneficial to the Embiid, who has averaged 2 blocks per game for his career. But when you get Philly's aggressive defense to shift, they try to jump passing lanes to ignite their fastbreak, which can lead to plays like this:

The above play contains the exact type of ball-movement and cutting principles that Fred Hoiberg has stressed throughout the preseason.

Zach LaVine is the type of quick, explosive guard that the Sixers can have trouble containing with their personnel, more so that they are depending on Fultz so much. But if the Bulls get bogged down into a bunch of one-on-one play, it will allow Embiid to sit back and be a huge deterrent at the rim.

Carter's ability to stretch the floor—along with Bobby Portis' shooting—should be enough of a threat to keep Embiid occupied, but if not he will not respect their shots, and simply clog up driving lanes.

Handoff plays contained some of Carter's best moments this preseason, so we should expect to see Hoiberg call for lots of plays that get a Bulls guard or wing attacking a backpedaling big.