Loss to Bulls puts cap on Pistons' lousy day
Chicago — The Pistons return home Saturday night for a game against the Miami Heat at The Palace hoping to erase the stench of a short but brutal road trip that finished with a bad day all around for them and their coach Stan Van Gundy.
It was a day of bad decisions, impatience and retractions. But no one apologized for a dreadful game where everybody from the players to the officials were bad during an 88-82 loss to the Chicago Bulls at the United Center.
The game was decided by the magic of Aaron Brooks and the slam of Pau Gasol, who closed out the Pistons on a night they gave up 19 offensive rebounds, scored nine points in the second quarter and turned the ball over 18 times.
"It was only fitting," Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy said. "There's your three factors for the game. We had our chances. We were one rebound away from having a chance to win."
After Kentavious Caldwell-Pope tied the game 78-78 with 2:25 remaining, Brooks scored his only five points of the game to put the Bulls up five. And they were all improbable. He hit a difficult 3-point shot as the shot clock wound down and after an Andre Drummond miss inside hit another improbable no-look, behind-the-head layup to put the Bulls up 83-78.
After the Brooks magic the Pistons put themselves in position to win the game thanks to Drummond, who hit two free throws, blocked a Pau Gasol shot and made a bucket inside to slice the lead to 83-82 with 30.8 remaining.
After a Bulls timeout Gasol slammed down a missed shot and made a free throw with 5.7 remaining to seal the deal for the Bulls. Gasol finished with 26 points, 10 rebounds and a huge scream to seal the deal.
"I felt we got some stops early," Anthony Tolliver said. "But those stops turned into offensive rebounds and buckets. That is always disheartening. You work hard to make a stop and they end up getting the rebound and scoring anyway."
The Pistons played good defense even when Brooks scored his big buckets. They held the Bulls to 38.8-percent shooting but gave up too many offensive boards.
"We definitely think we played good defense on both of those (shots by Brooks)," Tolliver said. "The 3-pointer he was like four feet behind the 3-point line and just let it go and it went in. The one around the basket Shawne (Williams) was on him, stayed on his hip. He went up. Shawne went up and put it behind his head and made that one. Both of those shots were highly contested and he made plays."
The only good news for the Pistons (29-47) is they are lottery bound and have six chances to surpass the 29 win mark they've posted the past two seasons.
The day began with coach Stan Van Gundy continuing a two-day tirade on the poor play of Caldwell-Pope, then later backing down because the words were considered too harsh for a young guy who tries hard but might be facing a mental wall of fatigue at the end of the season. Then Van Gundy turned the sword on himself, admitting he has not done a good job of coaching this season.
"There are times I have to remember how young some of our guys are and some of the strides they have made," Van Gundy said. "Patience is not a great strength of mine."
Earlier in the day he said this about KCP:
"He has played a lot more minutes than he did a year ago. It is pretty natural for a guy to hit the wall but again if you want to be an NBA player that is the way it goes. It is not like you are playing 38 minutes a game so you got to get used to it. You can't make excuses for it. You have to play better on the road. I don't know what that is all about. He has to take a look in the mirror and look at it."
Caldwell-Pope wasn't much better against the Bulls, tallying 14 points on 6-for-16 shooting.
But he said the words did not bother him.
"Just finish the season strong and keep playing hard like I've been playing throughout the season," Caldwell-Pope said. "And leave it all on the court."
The Bulls also clamped down on Andre Drummond (14 points, 22 rebounds). They could not keep him off the boards but aggressively doubled down on him when he set himself up for the jump hook that has become a staple in his game. But he was not able to set up and get comfortable as Jimmy Butler and Taj Gibson took turns giving Gasol help inside.
"We knew they did that last time," Van Gundy said. "We've got to be better. But Andre competed hard the whole game. I was real happy with his effort. He had a tough night offensively but he still hung in there."
Reggie Jackson had 22 points and nine assists for the Pistons. Jimmy Butler had 18 points for the Bulls.