AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP)—The Bulls have gotten lost in the Detroit Pistons’ shadow ever since Michael Jordan left Chicago.
As hard as it would have been to believe a few months ago, that might be changing.
“This was very impressive,” Bulls coach Scott Skiles said. “It was a great defensive effort and we’re a team that just keeps battling.”
Chicago, which started the season 4-15, hadn’t won five in a row since Jordan led the Bulls on a 14-game run during the 1997-98 championship season.
“It turned around pretty quick,” Kirk Hinrich said. “If you think about where we were three or four weeks ago, we’re in a comfort zone now.”
Detroit, which shot 35.6 percent, has lost four of six.
“We continue to shoot bad and give people life,” Pistons coach Larry Brown said. “Our shooting percentage has been terrible, so we’ve got to find a way to get to the line. That’s tough for us, because we don’t really have any dribble-penetration guys. We have to find a better way to play.”
Brown had to be restrained during a postgame argument with referee Anthony Jordan.
“The guy wouldn’t talk to me during the game, and I can’t understand that— I wasn’t being discourteous,” Brown said. “Well, maybe I was at the end, and I suppose I’ll hear about that.”
Six Bulls scored in double figures, including three reserve players. The Chicago bench players outscored Detroit’s 53-8, including 18 from Andres Nocioni.
“This was a good game for the bench, but we’ve been consistently playing well on this winning streak,” Chandler said. “I think that’s one thing we were lacking. We didn’t have a set rotation and we didn’t have an understanding of each other.”
“If you had told me at the beginning of the season that we’d be at .500 at Christmas, I wouldn’t have believed it,” Billups said.
Chicago led 46-38 at the half, thanks to some outstanding defense. The Bulls held Detroit to 32.6 percent shooting in the first two quarters.
“We’ve just got to keep shooting,” Rasheed Wallace said. “We are in a little bit of a funk right now, but I think our shot selection is OK. We’ve just got to knock them down.”
The Bulls expanded their lead to 11 early in the third, but Billups hit four 3-pointers, turning the last one into a four-point play when he was fouled by Eric Piatkowski.
Billups finished with 17 points in the period, pulling the Pistons within 64-62 at quarter’s end.
Nocioni started the fourth with a 3-pointer for Chicago, but Detroit stayed close until a 6-0 Bulls’ run made it 77-70 with 5:40 left.
Elden Campbell (sore back) didn’t play for Detroit. … Chicago had lost nine straight to Detroit and 19 of 21. … Olympic gold medalist Carly Piper (swimming) was in attendance. … The game was Detroit’s last before their much-anticipated rematch with the Indiana Pacers on Christmas. It will be the first meeting between the teams since Indiana’s Nov. 19 victory was cut short by the fight between Pacers players and Pistons fans. … Five of Chicago’s nine wins this season have been on Wednesdays. … The Pistons entered the game ranked 27th in the NBA in field-goal percentage.