With chance to beat Bulls, Pistons can't finish

Rod Beard
The Detroit News
Detroit Pistons center Andre Drummond drives to the basket past Chicago Bulls guard Justin Holiday and center Robin Lopez during the first half.

Chicago — The Chicago Bulls started the game well — and all the Detroit Pistons had to do was weather the storm.

And that they did, until the end.

Then the Pistons had a chance to tie it on the final possession, but Reggie Bullock’s drive to the basket fell off the mark and the Bulls prevailed, with a 107-105 victory on Saturday night before a sellout crowd of 21,613 at the United Center.

Tobias Harris got a steal with about five seconds left and passed ahead to Bullock on the 2-on-1 fast break against the Bulls’ Kris Dunn. In the final two seconds, the shot went off the rim and Harris couldn’t corral the rebound before the final buzzer.

BOX SCORE: Bulls 107, Pistons 105

“I felt like I would’ve been taking a chance if I had tried to back-pass it to Tobias,” Bullock said. “I looked at the play multiple times — it’s a foul. (Dunn) came down on my arm. It’s a foul.

“(The officials) didn’t look over it. We missed a lot of lay-ups. I’ve got to finish those lay-ups. But if you ask me my opinion, it’s a foul.”

There were only 22 foul calls and 23 free throws in the game, so the officials let much of the contact go.

In lieu of free throws, the Bulls (16-27) rained 3-pointers all night, hitting 47 percent (17-of-36) and zoomed to a 36-31 lead after the first quarter, when they went 6-of-7 from beyond the arc, including three from rookie Lauri Markkanen.

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“We played a lot harder (in the fourth quarter). We didn’t bring anything in the first half defensively, then we tried to play and then we struggled offensively,” coach Stan Van Gundy said. “We still don’t understand that we have to play for 48 minutes, hard defensively — every night, hard.”

Zach LaVine made his Bulls season debut, after missing 11 months recovering from a left ACL injury. He finished with 14 points on 5-of-9 shooting, including three 3-pointers.

The Pistons (22-19) stayed close in the final minutes, after the Bulls pushed the lead to 100-95 on a 3-pointer by Bobby Portis (15 points) with 5:55 left.

Andre Drummond finished with a robust stat line: 21 points, 15 rebounds, four assists, three blocks and two steals. He followed Portis’ 3-pointer with six straight points, for a one-point margin, but Dunn (18 points, eight rebounds and eight assists) answered with a jumper to retake the lead.

Avery Bradley (26 points) scored on a jumper with 1:29 left for a 105-104 lead but Markkanen hit another jumper 21 seconds later and Dunn split a pair of free throws with 38.5 seconds left for the 107-105 margin.

Bradley missed a potential go-ahead 3-pointer before Harris got the steal to set up the final possession.

“It makes it really tough (to win), not just not scoring, but shooting the ball that badly: 3-for-14, 0-for-6,” Van Gundy said. “It was one of those nights, so we tried to lean on Avery down the stretch.”

Harris finished 3-of-14 from the field, missing all six of his 3-point attempts, finishing with seven points, 11 below his season average.

“I’m frustrated; I just couldn’t get in a rhythm. It was nothing they did; I just couldn’t get into a rhythm,” Harris said. “I don’t have any extra pressure. Just go out there and try to get in a rhythm and play offensively like I’ve been doing.

“Tonight I wasn’t able to do that but there’s no added pressure of going to score more. The opportunities are there for me; when I’m open, I have to get the rock and be able to produce from there.”

Here are some other observations from the game.

■The Pistons were the bookend opponent for Bulls guard Zach LaVine’s ACL injury. He suffered the injury on Feb. 3 last season, when he was with the Minnesota Timberwolves and returned Saturday, as a member of the Bulls, after being traded in the draft-day deal for Jimmy Butler. He worked his way through rehabilitation and was on a minutes restriction in his first game back.

■Eric Moreland had a career-best five assists, to go with three points and five rebounds. He played more of a distributing role at the top of the key and had a couple good passes out to 3-point shooters, including to Dwight Buycks with 7:56 left to cut the lead to 94-93.

■Buycks, in his first game on a fully guaranteed contract, had 10 points, three rebounds and three assists in 21 minutes. He was 4-of-12 from the field.

■Anthony Tolliver (10 points) scored in double figures for the first time in nine games, logging 10 points, going 3-of-4 from beyond the arc in 18 minutes. He was part of the rotation of power forwards that had trouble guarding the Bulls’ rangy big men, who combined to go 10-of-19 beyond the arc.

■Stanley Johnson (hip flexor) played in Thursday’s win in Brooklyn but missed the Bulls game because of another issue with the injury.

Twitter: @detnewsRodBeard