AUBURN HILLS, Mich.—The Bulls (7-7) snapped their four-game losing streak in triumphant fashion, as a second-half surge broke open a close game to beat the Pistons (6-9), 99-79, Wednesday night at the Palace of Auburn Hills, securing their first win since Derrick Rose was lost for the season.
Behind point guard Brandon Jennings trying to push the pace, the Pistons jumped out to an early lead, despite All-Star small forward Luol Deng’s (27 points, six rebounds, five assists) scoring efforts. Rookie swingman Tony Snell (13 points, making his second consecutive start, also played well in the opening period, hitting a trio of outside jumpers, an area of need for the Bulls.
Taj Gibson came off the bench and made an instant impact, but was countered by veteran reserve Rodney Stuckey’s scoring and with the play of forward Josh Smith—one of Detroit’s major offseason acquisitions, along with Jennings and shooting guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, a rookie starter—the Bulls trailed, 29-25, after a quarter of play.
The Bulls’ second unit, with Deng and Gibson functioning as offensive focal points, went on a 10-0 run early in the second frame. Gibson emerged as a dominant scoring force, knocking down his first seven shots from the field to help the Bulls seize the lead.
[REPORT: Cavs contact Bulls about Luol Deng]
The Pistons regrouped and built a slim cushion, but as halftime approached, the Bulls fought back behind Deng, but after tying the game on a triple by Kirk Hinrich, who had focused on distributing the ball throughout the first half, Stuckey got a free pass for a layup, giving Detroit a 53-51 lead at the intermission.
After the break, Deng continued to be a spark, while Hinrich’s intangibles also had a positive effect on the game and All-Star center Joakim Noah made his presence felt after a quiet first half, all contributing to help the Bulls obtain some breathing room. Snell built upon his solid first-half play, as the rookie continued to hit perimeter jumpers and make plays on the defensive end, but also helped out as a playmaker and secondary ballhandler.
Heading into the final stanza, the Bulls maintained a 74-68 advantage, with only Stuckey’s instant-offense game keeping the Pistons within striking distance.
The Bulls held on to their edge in the fourth quarter, as the game evolved into one of their trademark grind-it-out affairs. Deng remained the offensive catalyst and the lead ballooned to double digits, as timely baskets by Hinrich, Gibson and Noah ensured there would be no Pistons’ comeback.
As Noah’s offensive game found its groove, the lead hit blowout proportions down the stretch and the Bulls could return to Chicago for the first time in a week with a reason to feel good, just in time for Thanksgiving.