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Bulls-Pistons Preview

AP - Sports

Richard Hamilton did not have to wait long to return to Detroit for the first time since the Pistons let him go last month. However, the veteran swingman might not be healthy enough to face his former team.

A sore groin could force Hamilton to miss his third straight game when the visiting Chicago Bulls look for a fifth consecutive victory overall and 12th straight over the Pistons on Wednesday night.

Hamilton averaged 18.4 points and helped the Pistons win an NBA title during his nine seasons in Detroit. Despite helping Detroit remain a perennial Eastern Conference power during most of his tenure there, age, injuries and a hefty contract led to the club buying out Hamilton last month.

He played 46 games in 2009-10 and averaged 14.1 points in 55 contests during a difficult 2010-11 season in which he clashed with former coach John Kuester.

That rough season did not prevent the Bulls (5-1) from signing the 33-year-old three-time All-Star to a three-year deal last month.

"That's going to be weird," former Bulls guard Ben Gordon told the Pistons' official website. "I just kind of got used to being on the other side and playing the Bulls. But now to see Rip over there, it's going to be different. But I'm looking forward to it."

Hamilton, who has averaged 12.0 points and gone 1 of 6 from 3-point range in four games with Chicago, could be relegated to the bench in his return to the Palace. He watched for the second straight game as Chicago rallied from a 19-point deficit to beat Atlanta 76-74 on Tuesday.

Derrick Rose scored 17 of his season-high 30 points in the fourth quarter and Luol Deng made a game-winning layup with 3.7 seconds left as the Bulls outscored the Hawks 34-18 in the final period.

Chicago shot a season-low 33.8 percent.

"It's hard to win in this league," said Rose, who was 8 of 22 from the field. "But we know we're 10 times better than what we showed."

The reigning NBA MVP has averaged 24.9 points on 52.3 percent shooting while playing in all but one contest during Chicago's 11-game winning streak over Detroit that dates to a 104-98 loss at the Palace on Dec. 23, 2008.

Chicago has averaged 100.8 points during that 10-game run while holding Detroit to 91.3 over the stretch. Though the Bulls have won five in a row at Detroit, only one of those victories came by more than 10 points while three were decided by five or fewer.

The Pistons (2-3) are averaging 87.6 points this season, but have put up 96 and 89 points while shooting 48.6 percent in consecutive victories over Indiana and Orlando.

Detroit won a season-high three straight twice during its 30-52 2010-11 season.Gordon scored 26 points as Detroit went 31 of 62 from the floor in an 89-78 home over the Magic on Monday.

"It's another step in a season where we're going to have to continue to take many, many steps to get to where we want to go," first-year coach Lawrence Frank said.

Gordon is averaging 18.0 points per game - his best production in three seasons with the Pistons. He's averaged just 10.0 and gone 8 of 29 from 3-point range while losing all eight games against Chicago, where he spent his first five NBA seasons.

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