Keys to the Game: Bulls vs. Pistons (03.09.18)
Thanks to some pressure from the league, the Chicago Bulls are taking Robin Lopez and Justin Holiday out of storage.
The Bulls were reportedly warned by the NBA about resting healthy players, particularly Lopez and Holiday, as they try to increase their lottery chances.
Lopez, who has started 57 games at center, has not appeared in the last seven games. Holiday, a shooting guard, played 17 minutes and scored 14 points in a 119-110 victory over Memphis on Wednesday. He didn't play in five of the previous six games.
Both are expected to be in the lineup when the club travels to Detroit on Friday to face the disappointing Pistons. Holiday was pleasantly surprised to be back in the lineup against the Grizzlies.
"I don't know all the rules and loopholes," Holiday told the team's website. "They said. 'Justin, you're playing today.' ... As far as them speaking to the league, that's for them and I don't know anything about that."
Holiday is averaging 13.0 points. Lopez was posting 12.3 points and 4.7 rebounds per game before he was exiled.
"Obviously, I'm an NBA player, I want to play basketball," Lopez told the team's website. "So that's always going to be a part of the equation. I want to do the best I can with the situation I'm dealt. My teammates supported me when I'm on the floor, when I'm off the floor, and I want to be able to do the same for them."
If the Bulls (22-42) are intent on tanking, it would help if they'd stop playing against teams with similar goals. They finished February with a five-game losing streak. They've won two of three in March, with the other victory coming against another team headed for the lottery -- Dallas.
Detroit (29-36) doesn't want to miss the playoffs, but it can't buy a victory. The Pistons have lost 10 of their last 12 games to, for all intents and purposes, slide out of the playoff race.
They played one of their best games in the last two months Wednesday and still came out on the short end. Eastern Conference leader Toronto edged Detroit 121-119 in overtime despite a 31-point night from Blake Griffin.
The Pistons, who have lost four straight, had a 17-point lead late in the first half but allowed the Raptors to outscore them 40-25 in the third quarter. That eventually led to their demise.
"We played hard and we just didn't get the job done. We can't give up 40 points in the third quarter; that was the ballgame right there," Detroit coach Stan Van Gundy said. "We still had chances. We did a good job at fighting back, but that's where they got back in it."
Chicago took the first meeting Jan. 13, winning 107-105. They'll play twice more -- on March 24 and in the regular-season finale April 11.
The Pistons embark on a six-game road trip after meeting their Central Division rival.
"We've got to come out of this with our head high and just keep on pushing for these next 16 or 17 games," reserve center Eric Moreland said. "We've just got to keep on fighting; it's not over yet. It was a tough one, it hurt, that's a demoralizing loss right there, but it's hard to win with that kind of third quarter."
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