Right before the Detroit Pistons left town for a long road trip, they defeated the lottery-bound Chicago Bulls.
They return home to face the same division rival Saturday at the new Little Caesars Arena. The Pistons (32-40) are barely hanging on in the playoff race, trailing Milwaukee by six full games for the final postseason berth with 10 games remaining.
Detroit went 2-4 on the journey, though it played a lot better during the second half of the trip. The Pistons collected their first road victories since mid-January on back-to-back nights in Sacramento and Phoenix. On the final leg, they forced overtime against the team with the league's best record, Houston, before succumbing 100-96.
"I have no question with our effort from our guys," coach Stan Van Gundy said. "The fact you can be on the road against the team with the best record in the league and shoot 6-for-38 from three and 10--for-19 on the line and be in a game is testament to the effort that we made."
The Pistons welcomed back point guard Reggie Jackson during the last three games. Jackson missed nearly three months with a severe ankle sprain and is still on a minutes restriction. He missed his last 11 shot attempts against the Rockets after making his first two while playing 20 minutes.
Rookie reserve shooting guard Luke Kennard misfired on all five of his 3-point attempts but still managed to score 14 points. He's reached double digits in six of his last seven games while also averaging two assists during that span.
"He's been great in this stretch," power forward Blake Griffin said. "Not only scoring the ball, but running the offense with poise when he has it, playing good defense, (and) being in the passing lanes."
Griffin has posted big numbers over the last 10 games, averaging 23.9 points, 6.5 rebounds and 6.8 assists. He led the way with 25 points, eight rebounds and eight assists when the Pistons defeated the Bulls 99-83 on March 9.
The Bulls (24-48) carry a four-game losing streak into the contest. They'll be playing the second end of a back-to-back after falling to Milwaukee at home 118-105.
Swingman Zach LaVine will miss the game with tendinitis in his left knee.
"Just nursing it right now, trying to get it back feeling 100 percent," LaVine told the media this week, including the Chicago Sun-Times. "Going forward, just making sure it feels 100 percent good before I get back out there and test it. I don't want to hurt myself or the team. That's the main thing."
His backcourt partner, Kris Dunn, is unlikely to play because of a toe injury.
"I don't care who's on the floor, the effort has to be consistent," coach Fred Hoiberg told the Chicago Tribune. "And you have to hopefully get off to a good start, which earlier in the season was a strength of our team. We have to find a way to get that back."
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