AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP)—With two blowouts, the Detroit Pistons have turned Chicago’s first-round sweep over the defending NBA champions into a distant memory.
Tayshaun Prince scored 25 points to lead Detroit to a 108-87 victory Monday night and a 2-0 lead in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
The Bulls came into the series full of bravado—Andres Nocioni even predicted they would advance—after eliminating Miami in the first round.
Quickly, their tune has changed.
“We kind of lost our swagger,” said Kirk Hinrich, who didn’t make a shot in Game 2. “We need to get our swagger back.”
Game 3 is Thursday in Chicago, giving the Bulls time to regroup after losing two games by a combined 47 points.
If the Pistons maintain their determined ways, however, it might not matter what Chicago does to adjust.
Detroit is 6-0 in the playoffs, its best winning streak in a postseason since closing the 1989 championship run with seven straight wins.
The Pistons are playing as they did in 2004, when they won a title with strong play at both ends of the court.
“We haven’t had this level of focus in a while,” Prince said. “But now that we are going on the road, it’s going to be a lot tougher.
“We haven’t done anything. We’ve just held serve.”
Prince made nine of 20 shots, including three 3-pointers, several mid-range shots and a dunk in traffic.
“He can take over games, especially when they try to focus on taking guys like Rip or Rasheed away,” Billups said.
Prince also slowed Luol Deng again, holding him to 16 points on 4-of-12 shooting. Deng scored 18 points on 16 shots in Game 1 after averaging 26.3 points in the first-round sweep over the Heat.
Chicago’s Tyrus Thomas scored 12 of his 18 points in the final quarter to prevent the Pistons from winning by 26, as they did in the series opener, but the Bulls’ stars did not shine.
Just as it did in Game 1, Detroit took control with a big run in the first quarter and prevented the Bulls from rallying the rest of the way.
“The thing that is the most surprising is that, in both games, we haven’t been very competitive,” Chicago coach Scott Skiles said. “Right from the jump ball, they’ve owned us.”
The Pistons led by 24 points early in the second quarter, 23 late in the third and had inside-and-out answers after Thomas helped Chicago pull to 93-80 midway through the fourth.
Rasheed Wallace dunked on Thomas and Billups made a 3-pointer to dash the Bulls’ hopes.
The Bulls made just 23 field goals, matching the playoff franchise low they set in Game 1, and hit just over one-third of their shots.
Before the game, Pistons coach Flip Saunders hinted that his team might look to score inside early after beginning with a Billups-led attack in Game 1.
It didn’t take long to see that was exactly the plan.
The Pistons took an 8-0 lead on their first three possessions after Rasheed Wallace backed down P.J. Brown into the lane, Webber drove past Ben Wallace and Rasheed Wallace dunked—giving them a second three-point play and Brown his second foul.
After Chicago scored seven straight, Webber’s 18-footer capped a 14-5 run that gave Detroit a double-digit lead. Webber scored 10 points, doubling his Game 1 total, to help the Pistons lead 34-18 with their highest-scoring quarter of the playoffs.
“Webb was great,” Billups said. “He shot his jumper without hesitation and his jump hook was unstoppable. That’s the Chris Webber I’m used to, and that’s why he’s here.”
On the first possession of the second quarter, Detroit reserve Jason Maxiell beat Ben Wallace to a loose ball to set up Billups’ first of two 3-pointers. Hamilton added two free throws for a 24-point lead.
Chicago outscored the Pistons by nine the rest of the quarter to make it 58-43 at halftime.
Ben Wallace had a team-high 12 in the first half while Hinrich was scoreless.
The Pistons went into the fourth ahead 83-62 and didn’t have to worry much about losing their cushion.
NBA commissioner David Stern attended the game and said he “won’t consider” reseeding after each round in the playoffs and that he plans to meet with suspended official Joey Crawford after the postseason. … Detroit outrebounded the Bulls 60-43 and limited Ben Wallace to seven rebounds, including just two on the offensive glass. … The game’s flow was stunted by fouls—36 on Detroit and 24 on Chicago. Rasheed Wallace fouled out with 5 minutes left. … … Faces in the crowd included Kid Rock and several Detroit Tigers, including pitchers Justin Verlander and Jeremy Bonderman.