Small forward Luol Deng scored a season-high 27 points as the Bulls ended their skid by toppling the Detroit Pistons 99-79 on Wednesday at The Palace. Forward Taj Gibson had a season-high 23 points for Chicago (7-7), which has defeated the Pistons in 19 of the last 20 meetings.
It’s the first win for Chicago since star point guard Derrick Rose suffered another season-ending knee injury in Portland on Friday. The Bulls were blown out by the Los Angeles Clippers two nights later, then fell in overtime to the downtrodden Utah Jazz before regaining their footing against their Central Division rival.
“We feel for him, we were disappointed but we have to move on,” said point guard Kirk Hinrich, who delivered 13 points and seven assists. “Nobody’s going to feel sorry for us. The games are going to keep on coming and we just have to play well. It’s important for us to rely on each other. We can’t be down or let a cloud hang over us.”
The Bulls won’t be able to replace Rose’s transcendent talent but they can still count on their usually suffocating defense. That wasn’t apparent in the first half on Wednesday, when the Pistons shot 58.5 percent. They clamped down after the break, holding Detroit to 27.8 percent shooting and forcing nine turnovers.
“In the Clippers game, we were in a funk,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. “I thought after that, our guys were great. They’ve been through this and they know what we have to do. They love Derrick, we all love Derrick and we’ve got to support him but we’ve got to do what we have to do and that’s get ready for each and every opponent.”
“All the hard work I’ve put in, it’s finally showing,” Snell said. “I’ve just got to go out and prove myself.”
Reserve guard Rodney Stuckey poured in 25 points for Detroit (6-9), which had won two straight. Forward Josh Smith (13 points, 11 rebounds) and center Andre Drummond (10 points, 11 rebounds) added double-doubles but Detroit’s starting five went AWOL in the second half, making just two of 18 field-goal attempts while committing eight turnovers.
“They obviously were a lot better in the second half than they were in the first half,” Detroit coach Mo Cheeks said of the Bulls. “We couldn’t score and a lot of it had to do with their defense. Their defensive pressure picked up in the third and fourth quarter.”
Stuckey got the Pistons into the bonus early in the fourth by driving to the basket and drawing contact. He shot six free throws in the first four minutes but the Bulls maintained the lead.
When center Joakim Noah (13 points) made a reverse layup with 6:12 left, the Bulls had their first double-digit advantage at 86-75. Hinrich's three-point play with 4:59 remaining extended the lead to 14 and the Pistons never threatened from that point.
“They played hard, played physical,” said Pistons center Greg Monroe, who was held to five points and three rebounds. “I don’t think we did a bad job against them. I could have played better but I think as a group we did a good job.”
NOTES: Bulls SG Jimmy Butler missed his fifth straight game with a sprained toe. Detroit G Chauncey Billups didn't play for the eighth consecutive game because of knee tendinitis. ... Pistons coach Mo Cheeks called Chicago PG Derrick Rose's season-ending knee injury a loss for the entire league. Rose tore the medial meniscus in his right knee on Friday. "He plays the game with such passion," Cheeks said. "When you lose a player like that, it's a blow for everyone because we all look forward to seeing him out there." ... Rose's injury has ratcheted up trade rumors involving the Bulls. The latest has Cleveland shopping second-year SG Dion Walters, with Chicago SF Luol Deng as a possible target. "You're starting to hear about it now. Usually, it's later in the season around the trade deadline," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. "For every 100 that get talked about, one gets done. So, the likelihood of something happening is small." ... Boxer Floyd Mayweather had a courtside view, 10 seats down from Detroit owner Tom Gores.