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10 observations: Zach LaVine's career-high 51 points can't mask multiple Bulls' issues

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Presented by Nationwide Insurance Agent Jeff Vukovich

DETROIT --- The Chicago Bulls dropped to 1-2 with a 118-102 loss to the Detroit Pistons in the Pistons’ home opener on Saturday night.

Here are 10 observations from the loss:

---The Bulls’ 15-game win streak in the series ended. The Bulls hadn’t loss to the Pistons since March 2019.

---The halfcourt offense struggles continued. In the first two games, the Bulls enjoyed some success scoring either off turnovers or offensive rebounds. They did neither in the first half against the Pistons, placing extreme pressure on halfcourt offensive execution. And it continues to be lackluster, with players walking into sets and little of the ball and player movement promised throughout training camp. Add to that shooting woes---the Bulls finished at 41.9 percent---and the offensive slog continued. The Bulls only had 16 assists.

---The defense wasn’t much better. The Bulls allowed 58 points in the paint and 20 second-chance points. Cade Cunningham was brilliant at recognizing matchups inside and finished with 25 points and 10 assists. Jalen Duren scored 23 points with 15 rebounds, tying the Bulls’ starters total.

---Zach LaVine snapped out of his two-game slump with a career-high 51 points. He sank his first five shots, scored 19 points in the first quarter and 20 in the third. In LaVine's 20 games vs. Pistons as a member of the Bulls, he's averaging 23.8 points. That includes three 40- and one 30-point game in his last five meetings.

---Patrick Williams and Coby White failed to score in a combined 49 shots, going 0-for-7. White’s first assist didn’t come until the 5 minute, 33 second mark of the third quarter on a feed to Nikola Vucevic. This came shortly after Cade Cunningham crossed White over with a nasty move for a bucket. Williams checked in for the final 1:11 of mop-up time, avoiding getting benched for the second straight game in the fourth quarter.

---The Pistons outrebounded the Bulls 53-32. No starter grabbed more than four.

---The Bulls’ first back-to-back set of games this season prompted Donovan to play back-end rotational players like Andre Drummond and Ayo Dosunmu a bit more. In fact, Saturday marked the first time Donovan played 10 players at least 10 minutes each.

---During his pregame news conference, Donovan said LaVine’s availability would be a gametime decision. And LaVine admitted before his pregame activation and shooting routine that his back felt stiff. He had been listed on the injury report as probable with low back spasms. But LaVine felt his back loosen up during his pregame shooting routine. “You know me,” he said. “I always play.” LaVine consistently talks about not wanting to miss any time because he endured a torn ACL early in his career.

---Whether it was because of a desire to keep his back warm or his hot hand, Donovan altered his first-quarter rotation and played LaVine the entire 12 minutes. This meant DeMar DeRozan was the early starter to sit for Torrey Craig and “stagger” his minutes to play some with the second unit. Also, Jevon Carter replaced Coby White and Alex Caruso replaced Patrick Williams later than usual in the first quarter.

---For the second straight day, Donovan fielded a question about Williams’ status as a starter. While Donovan admitted the lineup could be fluid moving forward, he said it’s too early to make a change. “I wouldn’t do it from the standpoint of, ‘Oh I’m just taking him out of the starting lineup because he’s got to do this, this, and this, and he’s not doing it,’ ‘’ Donovan said. “I think it would be more of, ‘What’s the best thing for our team?’ And then making the decision on that.’’

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