DETROIT – Zach LaVine’s back was sore before the game.
Putting his team on that same back and attempting to carry the offense on a night in which the Bulls were once again embarrassed, however, wasn’t going to do anything to ease that pain.
The Bulls guard admitted after the 118-102 loss to the Pistons that “popping some Tylenol’’ took care of at least the back issues, but fixing an offense that still looks broken? There was no pill for that.
Despite scoring a career-high 51 points, LaVine and his teammates watched Detroit end a 15-game losing streak to their division rivals, and do so quite easily, dropping the Bulls to 1-2 on the season.
“Obviously I wasn’t happy with the way I was performing (through the first two games), so I wanted to come out and be aggressive,’’ LaVine said of his night. “What’s upsetting is you don’t want to have a performance like that and lose. It sucks. Had some back stiffness in the Toronto game, but I’ve played through worse.’’
Plus, LaVine knows there’s bigger issues than a sore back.
There’s an offense that isn’t working.
Is that LaVine’s fault? Is it even on a player? Or does this fall on the coaching staff?
Considering how the Bulls have looked so far, safe to say all of the above. What LaVine cared more about was trying to remedy it and do so sooner than later.
“We’re trying this new thing out to have a complete cohesive offense, equal opportunity, and it’s going to take some figuring out,’’ LaVine said of the offense. “Through the first couple games, me and DeMar were in the corner a lot. Now we’re trying to figure out how to get involved with more touches.
“We all have to figure out how to help each other. It’s not going to be a 50-point game or a 20-point third quarter performance by DeMar (DeRozan) every game. You can’t live that way. It has to work like a (well)-oiled machine.’’
There was very little of that against the Pistons (2-1).
One night after watching Alex Caruso and DeRozan throw the capes on and play heroes in the overtime win against the Raptors, LaVine decided he had next.
Not only did LaVine come out aggressively hunting his shot, but was making up for lost time on his way to 19 first-quarter points on an impressive 8-for-12 shooting night. Before meeting up with the Pistons – a team he historically takes advantage of – it had been a rough go for LaVine.
Going back to last year’s season-ending play-in game against Miami, LaVine entered the night a combined 13-for-51 (25%) over his last three games, including a dismal 9.5% from three-point range on 2-for-21 shooting.
Not exactly statistics that scream max contract.
Then again, if only the Pistons were on the schedule for LaVine more often. Over his previous 11 games against Detroit, LaVine had averaged 27.1 points per game, and hit the 40-plus mark twice last season. So scoring 19 in the first quarter, and then scoring 20 in the third was not much of a shock.
Impressive, but not a shock.
And still it wasn’t enough.
The Bulls had no answer for how they were outscored 58-36 in the paint, as well as watching Detroit shoot 42.9% from three.
Which begged the question once again from LaVine: Can this new-look offense that coach Billy Donovan installed work?
“It’s just something that we have to figure out,’’ LaVine said. “We each have been a main option of a team before … it’s just something new we have to figure out and go about it.
“It’s tough when you’re trying to figure something out that isn’t working. We’re going to stick with it, though. That’s what we have to do.’’