Pistons vs Bulls Game Preview - Apr. 15, 2012
Having all but locked up the top seed throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs, the Chicago Bulls' biggest priority leading up to the postseason is Derrick Rose getting the rust off his shot.
Despite that significant issue, the Bulls seemingly should have little trouble beating the Detroit Pistons considering what they accomplished last time out.
Chicago looks to build on an emotional victory and win its 15th straight over the Pistons on Sunday night at The Palace of Auburn Hills.
Rose was a game-time decision for Thursday's highly anticipated showdown with Miami after sitting out Tuesday's win over New York with a sprained right ankle. While the league MVP started and claimed his ankle didn't bother him, he was extremely ineffective.
Rose missed 12 of 13 shots and the Bulls (45-14) were outscored by 27 points during his 25-plus minutes. Chicago managed to overcome the three-time All-Star's off-night, however, and pulled away in overtime to win 96-86. The first-place Bulls now lead the Heat by 3 1/2 games with seven to play.
Carlos Boozer had 19 points and Luol Deng added 16, while reserves Kyle Korver scored 17 and C.J. Watson had 16 - including the game-tying 3-pointer with 2.2 seconds left in regulation - as Chicago's bench outscored Miami's 47-7.
Rose finished with a career-low three points and didn't play in overtime. He might have spent the entire fourth quarter on the bench, as well, had coach Tom Thibodeau not needed to give Watson a breather.
"These games right here will make me a better player, a stronger player," Rose said.
Rose's poor performance wasn't entirely surprising. He returned from a 12-game absence due to a groin injury for last Sunday's overtime loss at New York, and subsequently injured his ankle. He shot 8 of 26 at Madison Square Garden.
"I'm just trying to get my rhythm back," said Rose, who has missed 23 games.
He sat out the last game against Detroit on March 30, and Chicago won 83-71. Deng scored 20, while Joakim Noah had 19 and 12 rebounds as the Bulls reeled off their 14th straight win in the series since a 104-98 loss at The Palace on Dec. 23, 2008.
The run is Chicago's longest active winning streak over a team, and Detroit's longest current losing streak to an opponent.
The Bulls are one of the NBA's top defensive scoring teams at 88.8 points per game, and in this season's first three meetings, they've held the Pistons to an average of 74.0 points on 39.1 percent shooting. Detroit is one of the league's lowest-scoring teams at 90.5 points per game and Chicago is 31-0 when limiting opponents to 91 or less.
The Pistons (22-37) are coming off Friday's 113-97 loss to Milwaukee, their fourth defeat in five games.
"(The Bucks) were the only ones playing with desperation and urgency," Pistons coach Lawrence Frank said. "They definitely imposed their will on the game."
Rookie Brandon Knight had 25 points Friday, while Ben Gordon scored 24 after averaging 8.8 points in his previous four.
Gordon, who spent his first five seasons with the Bulls, has totaled 18 points in his two games against his former team this season.
In Richard Hamilton's lone game against his former team, the longtime Piston finished with 14 points in a 99-83 win at The Palace on Jan. 4.
Boozer is averaging 18.3 points on 60.0 percent shooting against Detroit this season, while Noah is averaging 12.0 points - also on 60.0 percent shooting.