The Bulls’ coaches can preach defense and physicality all they want. It’s seemingly falling on deaf ears.
Maybe the players will show a pulse on that side of the ball when Kris Dunn makes his expected return Monday. Perhaps there will be an improvement when 7-footer Lauri Markkanen gets back from his elbow injury at the end of -November.
It’s likely the team will have to endure more of the play that contributed to a 118-116 loss to the Detroit Pistons on Saturday.
While coach Fred Hoiberg still wasn’t close to satisfied with his team’s effort on defense, he at least saw improvement from two nights earlier in Philadelphia.
“From where we were a couple days ago, this was a much better performance and something we can build on,’’ Hoiberg said.
But how long will the construction take?
The 0-2 Bulls again allowed two 30-plus quarters, and in the biggest moment of the game, they fell short.
Zach LaVine made sure he did his best to at least make the Pistons work before getting out of town, nailing a cold-blooded three-pointer with 24.6 seconds left to tie the score at 116. But that left the Bulls in position to have to play defense again.
A position they seemingly are allergic to.
Ish Smith was matched up with LaVine, but the Pistons set a double screen on the Bulls guard, leaving Smith with a wall of Bobby Portis and Jabari Parker to fight through.
It wasn’t much of a fight. Smith simply sliced through both for the easy layup with 5.4 seconds left and a two-point lead.
“He split the play,’’ Hoiberg said. “Kid made a hell of a play on the split when they came up in that horns set, got himself into the paint, made the shot.’’
LaVine’s take: “We can’t give up a layup for the last play. We just have to get our defense right. That’s upsetting. We played so well. We came back. We have to at least make him take a tough one.’’
Parker probably had the best view of the play, especially since Smith breezed right by him. But he again declined to talk to the media after scoring 13 points on 5-for-13 shooting in his regular-season home debut.
After Smith’s shot and a timeout, LaVine tried to play hero again, attempting to deliver a second three-point dagger when the set play broke down. But the ball slipped out of his hand as he jumped into his shot, and the Pistons’ escape was complete.
“It was a play to get Zach curling into the paint, and it got switched off,’’ Hoiberg said, “and obviously [LaVine] tried hitting the game-winner after just hitting one on the previous possession.”
But LaVine insisted he wanted the win, and that meant the three-pointer.
“Was going to take a two-dribble three [pointer],’’ LaVine said. “And the ball slipped out of my hand. It can’t happen. It has to be a miss or a make. It’s really upsetting to lose that way. We played so good to have it end like that. It’s an emotional roller coaster.
“I’m going for the win. I thought I could make it. I just made one before that. I can’t let the ball slip out of my hands. That sucks. You have to at least give it a chance.’’