Chicago — Saturday’s Pistons-Bulls rematch had a good start, but a much worse ending than the season opener.
After they ran with the Bulls and staying close down to the final minute on Wednesday in a six-point loss, the Pistons’ shooting went cold in the second and third quarters, and the Bulls looked dominant in a 97-82 victory at United Center.
Saddiq Bey had 20 points and a career-high 16 rebounds, Kelly Olynyk 10 points and five rebounds and Jerami Grant nine points and five rebounds for the Pistons (0-2), who next face the Atlanta Hawks on Monday.
The story of the game was the Pistons’ 23 turnovers that led to 24 points.
“You can’t beat anybody in this league when you’re careless with the ball — behind-the-back passes, through-the-legs passes, no-look passes. You can’t do that, and we can control that — and we’re going to control that, as a group,” Pistons coach Dwane Casey said. “As a team, we’ve been preaching it since September, and I take responsibility for the turnovers. Evidently, I’m not preaching it enough.”
BOX SCORE: Bulls 97, Pistons 82
The Pistons trailed by as many as 31 early in the third quarter, but they mounted a 17-0 run to trim the lead to 14 with 5:35 remaining. Trey Lyles (12 points and five rebounds) had three 3-pointers during the spurt and Bey added a three-point play to make it 89-75.
Patrick Williams ended the run with a jumper, and the Pistons got a free throw and a putback from rookie Luka Garza — his first NBA basket — to get within 13. Zach LaVine (14 points, five assists and five rebounds) answered with a fadeaway jumper that made the lead more comfortable.
Turnovers have been a familiar bugaboo for the Pistons, and they were a hindrance again, with 14 for 13 points in the first half. Just as limiting is the Pistons’ shooting, which has been poor in the first two games.
They shot just 5-of-28 (18%) on 3-pointers, and the Bulls (3-0) sizzled from beyond the arc, hitting 42% (11-of-26).
“I think it’s a cold start to the season because we have good shooters, guys work on them, and they make me practice, and we have to transfer them from practice to the game,” Casey said. “With a lot of the wide-open shots, I don’t know if we’re overthinking it. I tell them that I don’t care if they miss 15 of them — step into it.
“You work on it, I watch you work on it, I watch you make them, and we record them. It’s a little cold streak, but we have to continue to take them.”
The Pistons again were good defensively, as Zach LaVine, who had 30-plus points in their first two games, had just 14 on Saturday. DeMar DeRozan led the Bulls in scoring, with 21 points, six rebounds and six assists, and Nikola Vucevic added 15 points and 19 rebounds.
They were able to hold the Bulls under 100 points for a second straight game, so the defense has been something to hang their hats on, but the hard part is waiting for the shots to fall. The Pistons aren’t hanging their heads, and the locker room reflects their attitude.
“I think it’s like a good anger, a healthy one. If everybody was coming in the locker room laughing and joking, that would be more of a worry,” Bey said. “I think we all know we can be better than how we played from start to finish. It’s controlled though. It’s a motivation to get better next game and finish out this road trip strong.”