CHICAGO - To win three games against Detroit this season, the Chicago Bulls needed 47 points worth of comebacks. They still managed to stretch their winning streak against Detroit to 18 games with a 95-94 victory at the United Center on Sunday.
After trailing by 13 points in the first quarter, the Bulls finally took the lead midway through the fourth quarter.
"I was concerned about this game coming off yesterday's tough loss (at Dallas), back to back and early start," Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau said. "Our team needs to understand the importance of readiness to play. We dodged a bullet. Defensively, we were better in the second half."
On Saturday, the Bulls squandered a 12-point lead in the final four minutes and lost to the Mavericks.
On Sunday, the Bulls rallied to take a 91-84 lead with 3:55 remaining in the game, but the Pistons closed within 92-91 with 1:27 left on a layin by Rodney Stuckey. Luol Deng gave Chicago some breathing room with a putback of a Nate Robinson miss on the next possession.
Detroit's Charlie Villanueva missed a potential tying 3-pointer with 4.9 seconds on the clock. After Daequan Cook hit one of two free throws to give the Bulls a 95-91 lead, Stuckey's 3-pointer with 0.2 seconds left was inconsequential. Stuckey led the Pistons with 25 points.
Deng led the Bulls with 28 points, while Robinson and Jimmy Butler added 16 points each.
The Pistons closed out the month of March with a 1-13 record. They haven't won at the United Center since Feb. 24, 2006, dropping 14 in a row.
"There's been a lot of turnover on both sides," Detroit coach Lawrence Frank said of the losing streak against the Bulls. "The more turnover there is, the less (it matters). I don't even know if our guys know the last time we beat them was Dec. 23, 2008. I know that, but I don't even think they know that. The bottom line is, we gave ourselves three chances to win (this season)."
In the previous two games between these teams this season, the Bulls rallied from a 17-point deficit both times.
"Anytime you lose a close game like this one, it is very frustrating," Detroit center Greg Monroe said. "Tonight it was just one or two plays that made the difference. Yes, we want to end the streak as well."
Detroit came out of the gates like a team tired of losing. The Pistons jumped to a 14-2 lead, highlighted by 3-pointers from Kyle Singler and Jose Calderon. Their lead peaked at 18-5, after a putback by rookie Andre Drummond.
Detroit shot an even 60 percent from the field in the first half and led the points in the paint 26-12. But the Bulls trailed just 57-53 at intermission.
Chicago finally pulled even at 78-78 when Butler stole a pass and went in for an uncontested dunk. The Bulls took their first lead since 1-0 at the 7:59 mark of the fourth quarter when a pair of Taj Gibson free throws made it 82-80.
A few minutes later, Robinson missed a shot, ripped the rebound away from Villanueva and knocked down a 3-pointer to put the Bulls ahead 91-84.
"We knew it wasn't perfect, but as a team we played as hard as we could and got the job done," Robinson said. "It's not how you start, it's how you finish."
Detroit guard Brandon Knight was called for a flagrant foul with 2:32 left in the first quarter. After being called for traveling, he continued running toward the basket, then raised his arm and struck Butler in the face with an elbow.
As Butler went to the floor, holding his head, Robinson gave Knight a push. Robinson and Singler were given technical fouls, while officials reviewed the play and decided Knight would not be ejected.
"He didn't do it on purpose," Butler said. "He's not that type of player. Without a doubt, it hurt, whether he did it on purpose or not."
NOTES: There was no change in Chicago's injury situation. Joakim Noah (plantar fasciitis) missed his fifth straight game and Marco Belinelli (abdominal strain) sat out for the fourth consecutive contest. Derrick Rose (knee surgery) and Richard Hamilton (sore back) remain out indefinitely. Thibodeau is hopeful that at least Belinelli will be back soon. ... Drummond started his second straight game at center after missing the previous 22 with a back injury. ... Robinson went 7-for-7 from 3-point range against Dallas on Saturday. According to Basketball Reference, the last NBA player to be perfect on at least seven attempts from 3-point range was Detroit's Ben Gordon, who went 9-for-9 against Denver on March 21, 2012. Gordon also went 9-for-9 in a game for the Bulls in 2006.