AUBURN HILLS, MICHIGAN (TICKER) —The Detroit Pistons made sure not to put themselves in position to lose another game to a sub-.500 team.
“If we want to stay in first place, we can’t underestimate anyone,” Hamilton said. “They’ve (Bulls) still got some talent and you have to take care of business.”
Detroit was coming off Friday’s 97-93 loss at New York and appeared to still be affected by that defeat in the first half against the Bulls. The contest was tied early in the second quarter before the Pistons could only manage a 49-43 lead at the intermission.
“That was a good win for us,” Pistons coach Rick Carlisle said. “I thought Chicago played really tough in the first half and we were able to get a few stops in the third. We were able to hit some shots and spread it out a little bit.”
Detroit finally played like the top team in the Eastern Conference in the second half, outscoring the Bulls, 33-19, in the third quarter to take an 82-62 cushion into the final period.
The Pistons opened a 2 1/2-game New Jersey in the race for the best record in the East. The Nets suffered a surprising 93-88 loss at Cleveland on Sunday night.
“We didn’t take them lightly,” Pistons forward Ben Wallace said. “We would have liked to finish up the game a little better, but at the same time, that’s a good, young team. They are going to keep fighting throughout the game. We did what we had to do to win the game and that is the most important thing.”
Wallace grabbed 20 rebounds for the Pistons, the sixth time in the last seven games he has had at least that many. He had nine offensive rebounds - two more than the entire Bulls’ team.
“He got a few of those when we were in our zone,” Chicago coach Bill Cartwright said. “It’s tough, he’s playing great. That’s why is an MVP candidate.”
“That’s probably one of the reasons we lost this game,” Bulls center Eddy Curry said of Wallace’s rebounding prowess. “Anytime one player can come in and outrebound a whole team, that’s huge.”
Detroit improved to 15-0 this season when scoring at least 100 points and 25-10 against teams under .500.
Eddy Curry scored 18 points for the Bulls, who were denied just their second three-game winning streak of the season. They won three in a row from December 12-18.
Jalen Rose was held to just six points on 3-of-15 shooting, only the second time he failed to reach double figures in 101 games with the Bulls.
“They’re the best team in the East and today was obviously another reason why,” Rose said. “We’re not coming out in the second half and finding ways to make proper adjustments and play the way we’re capable. Our road woes just continue to haunt us.”
Chicago suffered its seventh straight road loss and dropped to 3-34 away from the United Center this season. The Bulls have lost 17 of their last 19 against the Pistons.
“We got into the penalty early and gave up a 33-point quarter, 33-19, and that pretty much caught up to us in the game,” Cartwright said. “It was disappointing mainly because of the way we started.”
Chicago shot 43 percent (33-of-76), but made just 3-of-11 pointers. Detroit was 9-of-23 from the arc.
The Pistons opened an 82-56 lead before the Bulls scored the final six points of the third quarter. Chicago continued its run, closing to 88-77 on Curry’s two free throws with 5:23 left. But the Pistons closed with a 17-5 burst.