Then Drummond went out and made Loyer look prescient. By halftime, Drummond had 19 rebounds, two more than the Bulls managed. More than anyone, he accounted for an 18-point halftime lead over a team fighting to get to 50 wins and lock up the East’s third-best record over Toronto.
He finished with 26 points and 26 rebounds, the latter matching his career best set in a March win over New York, and who knows how high the total might have grown had the Pistons defended better in the second half when Chicago scored 68 points.
But the night ended like so many over the past handful of seasons have for the Pistons in Chicago, with a loss and the din of another raucous United Center crowd burning their ears.
The Bulls shot 62 percent in the second half after shooting 38 in the first. The Pistons knew the run was coming, of course, and their knees wobbled a little in the third quarter but not all that much. They were still ahead by 10 points, after all, headed to the fourth quarter.
And then: a 20-3 run to open the fourth quarter, taking the Bulls from 10 down to seven up in the span of six minutes.
“You play the Bulls, and especially in this building, you know it’s going to be a 48-minute war,” Loyer said. “Whether you’re up 18 or down whatever, you’re going to have to come in here and compete. That team competes on every possession. You can’t take your foot off the pedal for a second. Great atmosphere for a game. They kind of feed off of that and you’ve got to be ready to answer the bell. For three quarters, we answered that bell pretty good.”
Nobody better than Drummond. Nobody defends Greg Monroe better than Chicago’s superb Joakim Noah, so Monroe was limited to seven points on nine shots. But that allowed Drummond to do some damage against Carlos Boozer. Drummond recorded what has come to be known as the Moses Malone triple-double – double figures in points, offensive rebounds (12) and defensive rebounds (14). He also had three steals and a blocked shot.
“Great game,” Kyle Singler said of the player he came in with as a rookie a season ago. “He’s going to keep on doing that. He’s not going to do it every night, but he’s going to put up big numbers for his whole career.”
“He competes,” Loyer said. “I’ll give Greg Monroe a lot of credit. They had Noah on him the entire night. Very unselfish, makes nice passes at the end of the game. Didn’t get frustrated. I’ll take both of our big guys’ efforts. They complement each other very well and gave us everything they had.”
Drummond’s 19 first-half rebounds were the most be a Piston in any half since Ben Wallace grabbed 19 against the Knicks on Nov. 18, 2002. Until Thursday night, Drummond’s 26 boards last month were the most by any NBA player this season. Then Denver’s Timofey Mozgov grabbed 29. It looked like Drummond would get there, but the Bulls didn’t give him many chances after halftime, missing only 15 of their 39 shots.
D.J. Augustin came off Chicago’s bench to score 24 points and Taj Gibson, a season-long problem for the Pistons, added 17, also off the bench. Noah came up four points shy of a triple-double, dishing 10 assists and grabbing 12 boards.
“Just like we talk about to our guys, Augustin and Taj Gibson are like playing against seven starters,” Loyer said. “(Augustin) is a very good pick-and-roll player, plays with a lot of savvy. He’s tough. He doesn’t back down from anybody and knows how to run a team. (Gibson) has had nice games against a lot of teams in this league. Taj Gibson is as active and athletic as any power forward in the league. They do it against a lot of people.”
The road team had won all three games of the season series in this one and it looked like the Pistons had a chance to make it a clean sweep. When they won at Chicago in early December, it was their fourth straight road win and left them at 10-10 for the season. They’ve gone 19-41 since. The Bulls, meanwhile, are 47-32 after losing Derrick Rose to a knee injury and giving away Luol Deng to save on luxury tax.
“Even without Derrick, they still have a solid team,” Singler said. “Top to bottom, they’ve got quality guys on the court, guys that just want to play hard and want to win. When you have that recipe, things will turn around for your squad.”