Detroit — Every game seems to present a new challenge for Pistons coach Dwane Casey to put together a rotation and have it jell.
It’s becoming a daily guessing game with the myriad injuries hitting the Pistons roster.
Against the Chicago Bulls on Saturday, the injury list included Blake Griffin (flu) and Derrick Rose (knee soreness), who missed the game. The Pistons, again shorthanded, had a patchwork starting lineup and reserve group.
With it came the same result as the previous three games.
The Pistons rallied in the fourth quarter, tying it with just over nine minutes left, but the Bulls took control down the stre tch and captured a 119-107 victory at Little Caesars Arena.
Overall, it’s the fourth straight loss for the Pistons (11-19) and the third loss to the Bulls this season. The Bulls (12-19) moved ahead of the Pistons, into 10th place in the Eastern Conference.
Markieff Morris had a season-high 23 points with a career-best seven 3-pointers and Andre Drummond added 19 points and 14 rebounds. Luke Kennard had 16 points and the Pistons got 34 points from their depleted bench but couldn’t capitalize when they had a chance late in the game.
“I thought we competed in the first half. Again, close doesn’t count — only in horseshoes. I thought we ran out of gas in the second half, trying to get guys in and out and give them a blow,” Casey said. “It’s a 48-minute game and I thought it was some of the best ball movement that we’ve had in the first half.
“We had 30 assists for the game, the ball was zipping and moving. I love that part, but again, you have to finish it out. We scored 18 points in the fourth quarter and that was a killer.”
Tim Frazier, who played for Rose, had season highs of 13 points and nine assists. He started the rally with a floater early in the fourth quarter, followed by a 3-pointer by Morris and a basket by Drummond, tying it at 96 with 9:10 remaining.
Zach LaVine (33 points, five rebounds and five assists) answered with a 3-pointer and Lauri Markkanen (15 points and seven rebounds) added a lay-in to push the lead to five. Luke Kennard followed with a 3-pointer but the Bulls (12-19) made another 7-0 run, with another 3-pointer by LaVine and putback by Markkanen, for a 108-99 lead.
LaVine put it away with his fifth 3-pointer, getting the lead to 111-101, with 2:05 left.
The Bulls went 18-of-35 (46 percent) on 3-pointers and seemed to hit a big shot whenever the Pistons got close.
“Defense (was the difference), especially in the third quarter, we started off slow. We didn’t get back in transition and that hurt us,” Kennard said. “They were able to get a lead and we just couldn’t get back to it.”
The Pistons had a 59-53 lead at halftime, but the Bulls used a 20-9 run over the first six minutes, to take a 73-68 lead. Tony Snell (11 points) had a pair of 3-pointers for the Pistons but the short bench and being without two of their best scorers was too much to overcome.
►Frazier provided a boost off the bench, playing for Rose, who missed the game because of knee soreness. It seemed to be more of a rest game for his knee issues, especially when he was listed as probable on the pregame injury report. Frazier had nine of his 13 points in the first half and played well early in the fourth quarter, when the Pistons rallied to tie it at 96.
►The Pistons cut their turnovers from Friday night when they had a season-high 25 against the Celtics, which was their undoing. Against the Bulls, they had just seven in the first half and hit 51% from the field, which helped them take a lead. The turnovers started again in the third quarter, including two after they got close, which helped the Bulls pull ahead.
►Dwane Casey won a coach’s challenge late in the fourth quarter, on a foul called on Morris. After review, it was determined that there wasn’t a foul and it was ruled a jump ball. The Bulls got possession and made a clutch 3-pointer, pushing ahead to 106-99 at the 3:59 mark. Casey has done well in getting calls overturned this season via the challenge.
►Without Rose and Griffin, the Pistons’ offense looked better, but the turnovers still hurt them, along with the Bulls getting in the paint and getting easier opportunities. The defense is still a concern, with a patchwork lineup and without two of their top scorers, the Pistons struggled.
►The Pistons were outrebounded by 15 against the Celtics on Friday night and by 17 Saturday against the Bulls. Drummond had 14 of their 29 and no other player had more than four.
“Defense is a big priority for us; we’ve been giving up a lot of points. Obviously, we have the best rebounder in the league, but we still can’t count on him to get every single rebound,” Kennard said.