Bulls 106, Pistons 89

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CHICAGO (AP)—Ben Wallace did his best, then relented for the first time all night. He had just helped the Chicago Bulls beat the Detroit Pistons 106-89 on Saturday night, and he had to admit this wasn’t just another regular-season game.

There were too many memories, too many good times.

“It felt a little strange,” he said.

Luol Deng scored 30, while Wallace finished with 12 points, 14 rebounds and a season-high six blocks in his first game against his former team.

Ben Gordon scored 23 and Andres Nocioni added 21 points.

It was a good ending to a tough week for the Bulls, who lost 97-96 to Phoenix on Leandro Barbosa’s 3-pointer with 1.5 seconds left on Tuesday and fell 91-86 at New Jersey on Friday after scoring the first 18 points. Chicago had dropped 15 of 17 to Detroit and 12 straight at home, including a blowout loss last season at the United Center that left the Pistons laughing.

Deng, who scored a career-high 32 against Cleveland a week ago, had 12 in the first quarter and 20 by halftime as the Bulls grabbed a 55-46 lead. He was 11-of-19 from the field and grabbed seven rebounds.

“I don’t think (they) were laughing tonight,” Deng said.

Richard Hamilton had his second straight 27-point game for the Pistons, and Nazr Mohammed scored 15. But Detroit was just 31-of-89 from the field. Rasheed Wallace and Tayshaun Prince finished with eight points apiece, with Prince hitting just 2-of-12. Ronald Murray was 1-of-9 for two points.

The Bulls led most of the first half, and kept at it after the break, outscoring the Pistons 10-5 over the first 3:10 of the third quarter. Deng scored six of those points, and Kirk Hinrich added a jumper that made it 65-51.

Chicago moved the ball on offense, and the Pistons were off target—except Hamilton and Mohammed.

Ben Wallace was as active as he’s been this season, delivering the type of performance the Bulls envisioned when they signed him to a four-year, $60 million contract. And sparking memories for Rasheed Wallace in the process.

“It reminded me of the old times—before I came here, before I got traded here,” the Detroit forward said. “It was fun, though.”

Rasheed Wallace had some fun at his former teammate’s expense during pregame warmups, when he tried to hand Big Ben a headband. Ben Wallace, who was benched for wearing one during a game at New York in late November, jokingly tossed it aside.

“Just messing with him,” Rasheed Wallace said. “That’s my man. We’ve got to mess with him.”

“I think the whole team came out with headbands,” Ben Wallace said, smiling. “That was premeditated on their part.”

Ben Wallace slapped hands with several Pistons by the scorer’s table before the game, then shook hands with and put his arm around Detroit coach Flip Saunders—the man he clashed with last season—before heading to center court. There, he bumped forearms with Rasheed Wallace.

Afterward, Rasheed Wallace and Hamilton went over to their former teammate, shook his hand and hugged him.

“It was just exciting to be out there—to have an opportunity to play against those guys, talk a little trash,” Ben Wallace said. “It brings a lot of excitement.”

He won four Defensive Player of the Year awards and a championship in six seasons with Detroit, but his tenure ended on a somewhat sour note. Wallace made it clear he wasn’t happy with his role on offense, and he refused to re-enter a game against Orlando.

“I have a lot of respect for Ben,” Saunders said before the game. “Even though we had differences on how he was used offensively, he never took away from his effort on the court outside of what happened in Orlando. He always gave everything every time he stepped on the floor.”

Notes: Detroit’s Chauncey Billups missed his third consecutive game with a strained right calf. … The Pistons set a United Center record for blocks in a half with 10 in the first two quarters. They finished with 11. … Rasheed Wallace got called for his league-leading 10th technical after fouling Deng on a layup 49 seconds into the game. … Bulls F Martynas Andriuskevicius got a good report this week after undergoing tests to monitor his recovery from severe head injuries he suffered during a during a fight in practice for the NBA Development League’s Dakota Wizards last month. Andriuskevicius suffered a skull fracture and concussion when he was punched by Awvee Storey, who had his contract terminated by the league Friday. Andriuskevicius said Storey has not called to apologize.

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Top Performers

 Top Performers
 Detroit
R. Hamilton R. Hamilton
7-20,  27 Pts
4 Rebs, 6 Assists
 Chicago
L. Deng L. Deng
11-19,  30 Pts
7 Rebs, 3 Assists

Team Stat Leaders

Points
Rebounds
Assists

Scoreboard

Saturday, Jan 6