Auburn Hills — After Monday’s 111-101 loss to the Chicago Bulls, visions of Pau Gasol’s patented mid-range jumper might haunt the Pistons frontcourt for some time.
The veteran big man gashed the Pistons for a season-high 31 points, making 13 of 18 from the floor, and was left open virtually every time he touched the ball.
Gasol wasted little time making his mark after the opening tip, recording six of the Bulls’ first eight points. Then when the Pistons caught fire midway through the first quarter and seemingly couldn’t miss, he single-handedly kept Chicago in the game, rattling off six straight points over the final two minutes.
Along the baseline, from the elbow or straight away, it didn’t matter. Gasol made the Pistons pay time and again.
“We didn’t defend, that was the main thing. We did not defend at all,” Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy said. “We started the game pretty well with our starters. We went to the bench and the bench didn’t have anything going today. We got crushed with the bench and after that, we just got pretty well taken apart the rest of the game.”
Particularly by Gasol. As soon as the Pistons (22-19) battled back to tie it at 79 with 1:18 left in the third, he answered with a tip-in to reclaim the lead.
Gasol even extended his range and added a backbreaking, contested 3-pointer in the fourth before drawing an Andre Drummond foul on another 3-point shot with 4:01 remaining, making all three free throws to give the Bulls (24-16) a 10-point cushion.
“Pau Gasol is a veteran. He’s been in the league 10-plus years,” Pistons forward Marcus Morris said. “He’s been doing it for a while; it’s not surprising. When he adds a 3-point shot, that’s tough to stop for any five man to get out there and have to close out to him every time.”
It seemed only fitting that Gasol finished what he started by providing the final touches with another wide-open jumper and emphatic one-handed slam in the final two minutes.
“Pau was obviously unbelievable all night long and I thought our guys did a great job of finding him and setting screens on Drummond,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “Drummond’s a monster at that rim and it’s hard to get the ball there, but our guys did a good job depending on him and that did open up the lane.”
Gasol also grabbed 12 rebounds to record his third straight double-double against the Pistons this season.
With the Pistons trailing by just four entering the fourth quarter, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, their best on-ball defender, was in the locker room after receiving his first ejection of the season.
Caldwell-Pope picked up a pair of technical fouls in the third quarter, the first coming at the 9:30 mark when he slammed the ball after a traveling call. Then with 7.6 seconds left, Caldwell-Pope barked at officials when he was whistled for a reach-in foul until he was T’ed up again.
“It’s next man up. He’s a big part of our team and big part of our offense but sometimes that happens,” Morris said of Caldwell-Pope.
Van Gundy wouldn’t delve into specifics about what caused Caldwell-Pope to lose his composure, simply stating, “It wasn’t good.”
Drummond also picked up a technical foul in the third, his sixth of the season.