AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) — The Chicago Bulls felt they played only two quarters of defense Wednesday night.
That was all they needed to beat the Detroit Pistons 99-79 and end a four-game losing streak.
The Pistons led 53-51 at the half, but Chicago only allowed 26 second-half points, including 11 in the fourth quarter, as they pulled away for the easy win.
“They made some shots in the first half, but I liked the way we were playing offensively,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. “In the second half, we got our defensive intensity going.”
Chicago’s defense was at its best in the fourth quarter, where the Pistons went scoreless on 10 straight possessions. Jonas Jerebko’s jumper had pulled Detroit to 80-75 with 8:39 left, but the Bulls didn’t allow another basket until Gigi Datome’s jumper made it 99-77 with 1:31 to go.
“This has been a tough road trip for us,” said Kirk Hinrich. “We played to our strengths tonight, we really competed defensively in the second half and we got one in the win column.
Detroit shot 27.8 percent in the second half, missed all six 3-point attempts, went 6 of 13 from the line and turned the ball over nine times.
“They were obviously a lot better in the second half than they had been in the first half,” Pistons coach Maurice Cheeks said. “We couldn’t score the ball, and a lot of that was because of their defense.”
Luol Deng led the Bulls with 27 points, while reserve Taj Gibson had a career-high 23. Tony Snell, making the first start of his career, added 13 points in 37 minutes.
“When I heard I was in the starting lineup, I just told myself to play my game and not rush anything,” he said. “All the hours I’ve put in, working hard in the gym, were so that I’d be ready for this.”
Rodney Stuckey finished with 25 off the bench for Detroit but no one else had more than 13. Josh Smith had 13 points and 11 rebounds and Andre Drummond had 10 points and 11 rebounds for the Pistons.
Point guards Brandon Jennings and Will Bynum combined for two points on 1-for-8 shooting in the second half.
“We certainly needed some scoring from Brandon and Bynum,” Cheeks said. “If you don’t get anything from either of them, you are going to have a hard time.”
Neither team played much defense in the first half, with the Pistons shooting 58.5 percent to Chicago’s 52.4 percent. Stuckey and Gibson both had 15 points off the bench, and each team also had two starters in double figures by halftime.
Six quick points from Joakim Noah helped Chicago put together a 18-8 run that gave them 69-61 late in the third. The Bulls had three straight possessions with a chance to move the margin into double figures, but two misses on open jumpers and a fast-break turnover let the Pistons stay close.
Stuckey finally ended Detroit’s drought with a pair of baskets, and the Pistons pulled to 69-65. The fight-back was short-lived, though, and the Bulls had the advantage back to 76-68 by quarter’s end. The margin stayed in the high single figures for the early part of the fourth, but Detroit started to struggle when Cheeks took Stuckey out of the game.
It was 86-75 when Stuckey returned with five minutes left, but he couldn’t help. Hinrich immediately made a three-point play to make it a 14-point game, and Chicago led by as many as 24 down the stretch.
“They are tough, but we adjusted to the physical play of the game,” Thibodeau said. “When the ball was in the air, we got bodies on people and fought for the ball.”
NOTES: Michigan native Floyd Mayweather Jr. was seated at courtside, a few seats away from Pistons owner Tom Gores. Mayweather, accompanied by a large entourage, engaged in some friendly banter with Bulls players, including an imitation of Joakim Noah’s unusual free-throw style. He also got a large ovation when he was shown on the scoreboard during the fourth quarter. … Stuckey leads the Eastern Conference with points off the bench, coming into the game at 15.9 points. … Datome finished with four points on his 26th birthday.
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