If Detroit can get Rodney Stuckey to impersonate Allen Iverson, the Bulls need Luol Deng to morph into Luol Deng circa May 2007.
With Iverson sidelined for all but 3 minutes, 16 seconds of the second half because of a strained left groin and missing all seven shots, Stuckey burned several Bulls defenders en route to a career-high 40 points Tuesday night at the Palace of Auburn Hills.
Perhaps more troubling than the Bulls' 104-98 loss to the Pistons is Deng's continued lack of impact. The forgotten forward scored just six points on 2-for-7 shooting, one game after sitting for the final 17 minutes.
Deng is averaging 13.5 points on 43.7 percent shooting, both his lowest totals since his rookie season in 2004-05. He has failed to reach double figures in three of his last four games.
"Luol's trying to find himself," coach Vinny Del Negro said. "He has to keep hustling and find ways to impact the game. We're trying to get him involved with certain play sets.
"When he's aggressive and after it defensively, he's a big plus for us. We need him to play well for us to have a chance."
Whether Deng is the victim of an offensive scheme designed to keep the middle open for rookie Derrick Rose or struggling to find rhythm because of shots Rose and Ben Gordon are taking, he clearly has been relegated to a stationary jump shooter and a non-primary option.
Deng, who stayed active with 11 rebounds, declined to discuss that dynamic, merely saying he feels fine physically.
The Bulls feel otherwise spiritually after whiffing on their fourth attempt since Dec. 12 to reach .500.
Rose fouled out for the first time in his career with 10 points and five assists. Gordon also fouled out after scoring 10 of his 18 points in the fourth. So did Andres Nocioni after scoring 18 points.
Foul trouble is as much a trend as poor starts as the Bulls found themselves trailing 17-4 before some might have realized Joakim Noah replaced Aaron Gray at center. That start featured several ridiculously easy interior Pistons baskets and little Bulls movement on offense.
"We have to get smarter," a clearly agitated Del Negro said. "We dig ourselves too big of holes on the road and spend a lot of energy trying to get back in the game. We have to have more of a physical mind-set."
The Bulls, led by Larry Hughes' 19 points, flashed a pulse after halftime, ripping off a 12-0 run with Nocioni scoring five. But Rose picked up his fourth foul less than two minutes in and sat. And Detroit responded with a 10-0 run as Stuckey scored seven.
"I kept thinking about [foul trouble] on the court," said Rose, who played a season-low 20:43.
The Bulls clawed back to trail 92-86 as Gordon scored on three straight possessions. But Richard Hamilton hit with a three-pointer with 5:12 left and Hughes missed an open three.
Tyrus Thomas, in a huge game, and Lindsey Hunter hit late three-pointers to add mild drama. Like Deng's performance this season, though, it wasn't enough.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times