After a 107-91 loss to the Detroit Pistons, it’s quite clear it’s going to take more than players coming back from injuries to put the Chicago Bulls back on a championship course.
Taj Gibson is back, but Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler are still out. The Bulls somehow let a 19-point lead slip away from them against the Pistons, who are already in break mode, or at least are expected to be.
But the Pistons seemed to handle absences a lot better. They played with Joel Anthony and Tayshaun Prince at power forward. Turns out it doesn’t always take the team’s best player to lead them to victory. The Pistons outscored the Bulls 54-19 in the final 19 minutes to walk away with the big 16-point win. After years of getting dominated by the Bulls home & away, the Pistons have two consecutive wins over their Midwestern rivals, in both of them holding them to just 91 points.
The Bulls simply went cold in the fourth quarter, scoring just 12 points. Sure, Pau Gasol, Mike Dunleavy and Joakim Noah give the Bulls another option of moving the ball and being a floor general without actually being point guards. But the absence of Rose and Butler, who can attack the paint and make defenses squirm and change unwillingly was obviously missing with Anthony doing an incredible job in the paint, getting four blocks and even adding 6 points, while Prince showed there’s still some defense and life to his again basketball body.
Maybe a bit more Nikola Mirotic (playing just 19 minutes, scoring 13 points) would have been helpful, but overall, it’s not that the Bulls did anything different. They simply seemed to run out of ideas, on the court and on the sidelines, which comes at a time when the whole relationship between the front office and Tom Thibodeau is being thrown into question.
Despite the sympathy for their injuries and problems, the Bulls can’t just let things fall apart. They have already fallen to fourth in the East, tied with the Raptors in games behind the Cavaliers (at second) and the untouchable Atlanta Hawks. The other problem seem to be the stabilizing Wizards, now just one game behind the Bulls, needing two wins to match the record of their rivals in what seems to be the #4-5 seeds first round playoff series for a second consecutive season.