Chicago 98, Detroit 91

AUBURN HILLS, Mich., Dec. 7 (AP) -- Before Friday night's game, Ben Wallace still looked like a member of the Pistons family.

But after the pre-game hugs and jokes, Wallace did what he's been doing since he joined the Bulls: post a win over his old pals.

Wallace had 10 points and 13 rebounds and the Bulls improved to 5-1 in the regular season against Detroit since he joined the team last season.

"We came out with a lot of energy,'' Wallace said. "That got us out in front, which is something we need to do a little more often.''

The Pistons eliminated Chicago in the second round of last year's playoffs, but they know it isn't a good matchup for them. Chauncey Billups, who scored 15 of his game-high 27 points in the fourth quarter, compared the Bulls to the Jazz, another team that gives the Pistons fits.

"Chicago and Utah are two teams where, if you don't beat them in the hustle game, you probably aren't going to beat them at all,'' he said. "That's where they won the game tonight.''

Wallace and another ex-Piston, Joe Smith, outrebounded the entire Detroit roster in the first half, and Detroit coach Flip Saunders was thrilled to only be down 45-43.

"The way they rebounded and the way we rebounded, we could have been down 20,'' he said. "It was a two-point game, but I was not at all comfortable with the way we were playing.''

The Bulls had a 16-5 advantage on the offensive glass in the half.

"I was happy because we came in and made a lot of hustle plays,'' said Chicago coach Scott Skiles. "The offensive boards kept us in the game early, and that's all hustle. We were getting after the loose balls.''

The Bulls changed gears in the second half. Smith only played seven minutes while Skiles went with the smaller Andres Nocioni.

"He was 1-for-5 at halftime, but we kept going to him,'' Skiles said. "Nothing seems to faze him, and he's been valuable thus far this year.''

The move worked. Nocioni had 17 of his team-high 22 points in the last two quarters.

"We have a definite problem guarding him,'' Saunders said. "We tried to stay big, but we couldn't do anything with him.''

Meanwhile, Detroit could never find the balanced attack that is usually its trademark. Rasheed Wallace had 13 points in the first quarter, Richard Hamilton reached double figures in the second and third periods and Billups had the big fourth, but they never got going at the same time.

"When you are struggling to get anything going and one guy gets something going, you tend to keep going with him,'' Billups said. "But one guy isn't usually going to be enough.''

Chicago only had a one-point lead going into the fourth, but scored the first seven points of the period to take a 79-71 lead with 9:30 left.

That's when Billups got started. He scored nine points in the next three minutes, and even though no other Piston had scored in the period, he had the deficit down to 83-80 at one point.

Nocioni, though, ended the one-man surge with a three-point play, and Chicago held on for its fourth win in five games after a 2-10 start.

"Right now, we are more aggressive and we are playing much better than we had been,'' Nocioni said. "We're heading in the right direction.''

Notes: Ben Wallace, notorious for his terrible free-throw shooting, was 6-of-7 from the line in the first half, including a pair with 0.5 seconds left. ... The Bulls' bench, led by Nocioni, outscored Detroit's 45-14. ... The Pistons, who are celebrating their 50th anniversary in Detroit, wore throwback jerseys based on their 1950s-era uniforms.

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