Blowout loss to Bulls shows Pistons are still trying to sustain success in back-to-back games

Detroit Free Press

The Detroit Pistons were coming off one of their best efforts of the season going into Tuesday’s road game against the Chicago Bulls. It wasn’t reflected in their final score against the Bulls.

After completing a 22-point comeback against the Utah Jazz on Monday, the Pistons fell to the Bulls by 46 points on Tuesday. Detroit played its best third quarter and worst third quarter of the season in consecutive games. Back-to-backs are difficult, especially when there’s a flight in-between the two games.

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The Pistons had found some momentum in 2022, winning four of their first six games in the calendar year and defeating two contenders, the Jazz and Milwaukee Bucks. But the Pistons are still young, and Tuesday was a reminder that there’s a lot for them to learn. They’re now 2-5 on the second night of back-to-backs this season

“We have to learn how to play with success,” Dwane Casey said after the 133-87 loss. “This team was talking about how we’d beat Utah the night before, so they came out ready to play. We met that intensity in the first half, and in the second half we didn’t. But that’s our next area of growth is playing, whether it’s through fatigue, through contact, through physicality, whatever it is on the second night of a back-to-back.”

Detroit started the game strong, taking an eight-point lead after a 9-0 run in the first quarter. The Bulls clamped down afterward, and didn’t ease their effort even as the deficit got out of hand. The Pistons committed two turnovers and an offensive foul in the opening two minutes of the third quarter, and missed their first seven shots. It led to a 17-0 Chicago run that extended the lead to 26 points putting the game firmly out of reach. The Pistons didn’t score in the third until Cade Cunningham found a wide open lane for a dunk with 7:48 on the clock.

The Bulls outscored the Pistons by 22 points, 36-14, in the third quarter a night after the Pistons outscored the Jazz by 17 in the same period. Detroit trailed by 31 at the end of the third against Chicago.

“I thought we fought back last night coming from a big deficit,” Casey said. “Used a lot of energy, a lot of mental energy. Like I told them before the game, that was last night. Now you have another mountain to climb tonight. Whatever you have to do mentally, because a lot of our guys are young, they’ve got to get used to playing through whatever mental fatigue, physical fatigue that we have in the NBA because it’s going to be that way for a long time if they’re going to stay in this league a while. You’re going to have a lot of back to backs in your career. You’re going to have nicks, bumps and nights where you don’t feel like it. That’s when you really have to slow down and make sure you make the fundamental play, the easy play and not try to do anything complicated.”

The Pistons will take two days off before hosting the Toronto Raptors at home on Tuesday. They could be slightly deeper for that game. They were without Cory Joseph on Tuesday due to a left knee contusion. Bol Bol, who the team traded for earlier this week, is expected to join them in Detroit on Wednesday and could make his debut Friday.

After suffering their worst loss of the season, the Pistons will try to learn how to attack back-to-backs with better energy. Their next opportunity to do so will be on the road next week, facing the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday and the Sacramento Kings Wednesday.

“Everybody knows we played a game yesterday, a pretty good game,” Josh Jackson said “A tough one. But we just gotta be a little bit better off of back-to-backs. I don’t feel like we played with as much energy as we normally play with because of that, but that’s part of the NBA. It’s just something we have to learn to get used to.”

Contact Omari Sankofa II at osankofa@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @omarisankofa. The Free Press has started a new digital subscription model. Here’s how you can gain access to our most exclusive Pistons content. Read more on the Detroit Pistons and sign up for our Pistons newsletter.

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