Choppy guard play only helps doom Bulls

CHICAGO -- On a night when Marquis Teague was the best Chicago Bulls guard, the results were predictable.

Faced with the challenge of the Detroit Pistons’ menacing inside game, led by Josh Smith, Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond, the Bulls were going to need their guards to tip the scales in the team’s favor Saturday. And the lightweight backcourt play didn’t deliver.

The play of the guards, though, was only one of a myriad of issues that plagued the Bulls in a 92-75 defeat. It was the Bulls’ season low in points this season and the lowest since they scored 72 against the Oklahoma City Thunder in February.

In addition to the issues the guards had on offense, protecting the 3-point line was another problem as the Pistons went 12-of-19 (63.2 percent) from long range.

Teague seems to have been scared straight after the ultimate motivation tactic earlier in the week, when he was sent down the NBA Development League for about an hour and then recalled. He still doesn’t look like a former first-round draft pick, but he was good enough against the Pistons to shoot 4-of-8 from the field, score 10 points and dish out three assists.

Starting point guard Kirk Hinrich, on the other hand, had three points on 1-of-7 shooting, along with four assists, but his 36 minutes were more than double what Teague played.

Asked about his guard play, Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau didn’t exonerate the group, instead choosing to spread around the blame.

“It was choppy because we changed the starting lineup and it also changed the second unit,” Thibodeau said about going with Taj Gibson because Luol Deng was out with a sore Achilles tendon. “I thought we were just starting to get a good rhythm, but that changed.

“That being said, the responsibility of getting back, making multiple efforts to get in and get out and cover the line and rebound.

“I thought rebounding hurt us, I thought not covering the line hurt us and I thought our defensive transition hurt us.”

With Derrick Rose, Jimmy Butler and Mike James out of action because of injuries, guard play will continue to be a wait-and-see endeavor. Butler might return from his toe injury as early as next week after missing the past nine games.

But even when Butler does come back, the point guard spot might remain an issue. While Teague and Hinrich took turns there Thursday against the Heat, both ball handlers were on the floor at the same time during the second quarter Saturday.

It was shades of Thibodeau’s early-season strategy to pair Rose and Hinrich in the backcourt. And even with Teague handling the Rose role, the Bulls were getting satisfactory results. Teague played the entire second quarter, with Hinrich joining him on the court for the final 5 minutes, 33 seconds.

The Bulls even managed to jump out to a seven-point lead with the Hinrich-Teague duo, their largest of the game. The fun stopped there, though.

While things fell apart for the Bulls in the third quarter, the Pistons’ run to take over the game actually started when they scored nine of the last 11 points before halftime in a 2:57 stretch.

The third-quarter issues weren’t just a guard problem, however Hinrich did play all but 35 seconds in the period, going 0-of-5 from the field, including four missed 3-pointers, with four turnovers.

With everything else the Bulls were up against, they didn’t stand a chance at recovering.

“I just think we got a little stagnant after playing in a rough first half; it was kind of lackadaisical,” Gibson said. “But I felt like the looks were there. We just couldn’t make shots early. They got out on the wing. It came down to our defensive transition. I feel like we didn’t contain the 3-point line to well. They got a lot of open 3s and that’s what helped them get back in the game.”