Detroit — The Chicago Bulls continue their inexplicable mastery over the Pistons.
They limped in on a six-game losing streak Saturday night and beat the Pistons for the fourth straight time this season — 108-99, at Little Caesars Arena.
"I don't know," said backup center Christian Wood afterward. "Chicago beat us three straight times and we knew we had to try and punch them in the face. Didn't work out that way."
No, in fact, it was Chicago who threw the first punches, jumping out to a 15-point lead after one quarter. Even though the Pistons won the last three quarters, it wasn't good enough.
"Lack of intensity," Pistons coach Dwane Casey. "I take responsibility for that. We didn't get our guys ready to play and come out with the right intensity. In the second half we did and I thought we gave ourselves a chance to win."
Zach Levine led the Bulls with 25 points.
Derrick Rose had 20 points and seven assists, Wood had 17 points and 14 rebounds. Rookie Sekou Doumbouya, whose three-point play brought the Pistons within two with 6:47 left in the game, finished with 12.
Lauri Markkanen, who finished with 14 points, scored five points in a 9-2 run that put the Bulls back up 98-90 with four minutes left and all but sealed the win.
The Pistons went more than four minutes with just one field goal before Svi Mykhailiuk hit a 3-pointer with 1:10 left. But it was too little too late.
"I don't mind if we make mistakes or missed shots, if we play hard," Casey said. "There was one play that really upset me. (Daniel) Gafford was in the paint. The ball bounced around two or three times and he picked it up. There were five blue jerseys around him and he got it and dunked it.
"That can't happen. Those are the kind of mistakes you can't live with. You're not building the right culture with those kind of mistakes."
The Pistons didn’t show much fight until a frustrated Andre Drummond was ejected early in the third quarter.
Just 1:18 into the second half, Gafford, the Bulls center, scored a put-back over Drummond to put the Bulls up 63-52. He put an exclamation point on it by screaming in Drummond’s face.
Drummond threw ball off Gafford’s head. A double-technical foul was called, but only Drummond, who did not make himself available to the media after the game, was ejected.
"I'm not going to just come out and be intimidated of a guy that's bigger than me," said Gafford, who had 14 points. "I understand you have size on me, but I'm not going to back down from a challenge.
"I like challenges. I either succeed or I fail. Tonight I succeeded."
He succeeded in sparking the Pistons, who responded with an 11-4 run. Doumbouya, Rose and Tony Snell each hit 3-pointers to trigger the run and get the Pistons re-engaged in the contest.
But the Pistons never quite got over the hump.
LaVine scored eight straight points to close the third quarter, keeping the Bulls up 10, 81-71, entering the final quarter.
"I thought our energy in the first quarter was maybe the difference in the game," Bulls coach Jim Boylen said. "You talk about the spread in the first quarter being the difference in the score a lot of times in NBA games."
The Bulls were beating Pistons defenders off the dribble and scoring at will in the paint and at the basket. They closed the quarter with a 23-6 run, scoring on 10 straight possessions, building a 35-20 lead.
"We know Chicago is one of the top first-quarter scoring teams in the league," Casey said. "I don't know if we made a big enough emphasis on that. I thought we did."
By the end of the half, the Bulls had outscored the Pistons 40-26 (60-48 for the game) in the paint and shot 55 percent from the floor (50.6 for the game.
The last time Markieff Morris faced the Bulls, he scored a season-high 23 points, hitting seven three-pointers. That was on Dec. 21. Morris has only played one game since.
But he was back on the Pistons bench Saturday. He’d missed seven games with a foot injury.
“He’s available,” Casey said before the game. “The key thing with him is just his game conditioning. You can work out all you want, he was working hard behind the scenes, but it’s different when it’s live and you are running up and down.
“We’re going to have to monitor him.”
Morris struggled, going 0-for-7 from the floor and finishing with a minus-16.
Doumbouya, a small forward by trade, continues to start at the power forward spot with Blake Griffin likely out for the season after knee surgery.
“Right now it’s out of necessity,” Casey said. “We need a big body and he’s shown he can handle it. The thing he can’t do is foul. He needs to get good position and don’t get cheap fouls. He will learn that. But we are excited about where he is.”
So, this is a minutes restriction?
Since the calendar flipped to 2020, 31-year-old Derrick Rose has averaged 30 minutes in five games for the Pistons. That’s five minutes above his season average and includes a season-high 35:42 in the loss to the Cavaliers Thursday night.
“He says he feels good but he’s always going to lie,” Casey said. “We have to watch him carefully. We can’t go a week like that.”
Not that Casey minds Rose fighting to be on the court.
“I love that,” he said. “He’s a competitor and he’s a winner. But Father Time is undefeated.”
Rose played 29 minutes Saturday.
"I've got to cut his minutes and I hate to say that," Casey said. "He can't keep playing the minutes he's playing or he won't be around much. He'll be in a suit. We've got to help him."
The Pistons brought guard Jordan Bone, a rookie from Tennessee, up from the G League.
“He’s been playing well and we wanted to get him here, let him work out with our guys and see where he is,” Casey said.
In 20 games at Grand Rapids, Bone is averaging 17.8 points and 7.5 assists in 32 minutes.
“He’s more of a scorer than he is a point guard right now,” Casey said. “He’s got to get better at being a point guard — distributing, getting guys organized, running pick-and-rolls, coming off and looking at his options instead of coming off looking to score.
“These are all things he needs to learn. He’s a scorer by nature.”
Forward Louis King, who was with the team on the recently concluded West Coast trip, was returned to Grand Rapids.