Tuesday's visit from the Detroit Pistons in a game rescheduled from December due to COVID-19 marks the start of a three-game homestand for the Chicago Bulls and the beginning of a crunch of four contests in five nights.
In addition to getting back in the win column -- Sunday's 113-99 loss at Dallas snapped Chicago's season-best, nine-game winning streak -- the Bulls aspire to return to the brand of defense that has helped lift them to the top of the Eastern Conference standings.
Players felt the 'D' in Big D simply didn't hack it.
"Our defense is not just consistent enough throughout games," Chicago's Nikola Vucevic said. "We have stretches where we're really good and are able to make our runs. And then we have stretches where we're not focused enough. Our rebounding needs to be a little better. A lot of times we do get stops but we don't get the rebounds, so they get second-chance opportunities. Those hurt always."
Dallas shot 50 percent from the floor against Chicago, including 44.4-percent accuracy from deep, while winning the rebounding battle 48-39.
Bulls leading scorers DeMar DeRozan and Zach LaVine finished with 20 points each, but Chicago was limited to fewer than 100 points for the first time since Dec. 11. The Bulls closed the week ranked fourth in the NBA in offensive rating but 13th in defensive rating, a standing they want to improve.
"We've shown we can do it," Vucevic said. "It's just us being more consistent. If we want to be the team we want to be and we know we can be, it has to be for 48 minutes."
Pistons rookie Cade Cunningham figures to loom large on the Bulls' radar Tuesday. Cunningham is coming off a career-best 29 points during Monday's 126-116 home win against the Utah Jazz, scoring 18 in the third quarter.
Saddiq Bey also scored 29 points for Detroit, which has won four of six. The Pistons shot 19-for-37 from deep, setting a season high for 3-pointers made while rallying from a 22-point, second-quarter deficit.
"They did a phenomenal job at halftime of bringing more energy, spirit and togetherness. ... We were down by 22 and we just fought back," Detroit acting coach Rex Kalamian said.
Kalamian led the Pistons as head coach Dwane Casey entered the NBA's health and safety protocol earlier Monday. The team presented Kalamian with a game ball after the victory.
"It's the first time I've gotten a game ball in 28 years," Kalamian said. "I'm very happy to get the win for the players, especially."
Chicago can clinch the season series against Detroit with a victory. The Bulls opened the season with a 94-88 road win against the Pistons on Oct. 20 before prevailing 97-82 on their home floor three days later. The teams are set to meet March 9 in Detroit to conclude the regular-season series.
The Bulls boast a nine-game winning streak against the Pistons and are 138-133 against their Central Division foes all-time.
--Field Level Media