Bulls in Big Trouble

The Chicago Bulls simply have trouble matching up with Detroit.

That was Scott Skiles' assessment about 12 hours after his team's 95-69 loss to the Pistons in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.

Ben Gordon can't guard Chauncey Billups or Richard Hamilton, Skiles said, and rookie Tyrus Thomas is struggling mentally to grasp defensive concepts.

``It's a difficult team for us to match up with because they're bigger than us at every position on the floor and at some positions, they're more athletic also,'' Chicago's coach said Sunday morning. ``That's why we have to play our effort, energy game, because sometimes those things can neutralize that.''

Detroit hosts Game 2 on Monday night.

Oddsmakers have made Detroit -5 point spread favorites (NBA Odds) for todays game, the over/under has been set at 182 total points (Matchup). Our public betting information shows that 74% of bets for this game have been placed on Detroit -5 (View NBA Bet Percentages).

The Pistons were a step quicker and more aggressive Saturday on defense, limiting Chicago to less than 33 percent shooting and forcing 22 turnovers.

At the other end of the court, Detroit had five double-digit scorers that were effective inside and out, and in fast break and half-court situations.

Billups had his way early with Gordon, who also seems to be a defensive liability against Hamilton.

Detroit's All-Star guards each scored 20, while Gordon had just seven points in part because he was called for two fouls in the first 2 1/2 minutes of the series.

``We're having a hard time finding somebody he can guard in the starting lineup,'' Skiles said. ``He's got to address that and be able to guard somebody so that he doesn't get in foul trouble.''

The Bulls are having trouble with Detroit's frontcourt, too, because Rasheed Wallace, Chris Webber and reserve Antonio McDyess can all score from the perimeter.

When Skiles replaces Ben Wallace or P.J. Brown with Thomas, the problems are compounded by his inexperience.

``We've got a certain way we're trying to cover things that he has a hard time figuring out,'' Skiles said. ``He's a young kid trying to learn his way and unfortunately, he's in a big-time environment trying to do it.''

Pistons coach Flip Saunders did not quite buy Skiles' woe-is-us comments.

``They beat us three out of four during the regular season, so they've had success against us,'' Saunders said. ``The one thing about Scott's teams, they always play extremely hard.''

Detroit is determined to match the Bulls' intensity in Game 2, when its dominant performance in the series opener becomes irrelevant.

``That's your main emphasis,'' Saunders said. ``That's why you play a series. It's not one game. It's not the NCAA.

``One play can change a game and one game can change a series. The guys are extremely focused, and they've talked about the importance of Game 2.''

In the past - with many of the same players - the Pistons have been at their best when doubted. In times of prosperity or positive publicity, they have allowed their focus and intensity to slip.

Lindsey Hunter insisted that letting up mentally and physically is merely a part of the team's history, and pointed toward the first-round sweep over the Orlando Magic as proof.

That's why he is not worried about how Detroit responds two days later after routing the Bulls.

``I don't think it's a test,'' Hunter said. ``In the first round, everybody was talking about we haven't swept anybody. Now it's about whether we can handle success. It will be an ongoing saga. Can you do this? Can you do that?

``We don't really pay attention. We just want to keep our focus and intensity.''

The Bulls' sweep over the defending NBA champion Miami Heat in the first round came after a disheartening setback at New Jersey in the regular-season finale, knocking them down from the second-seeded to the fifth-seeded team in the East.

``Almost all the time after something like that, we have a great response,'' Skiles said. ``The issue is, if we respond and play very well, can we beat (the Pistons) if they're playing at a high level? I think the answer is `Yes.'''

By: Marc Young - theSpread.com - Email Us

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