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Ragtag Bulls fight to end
Defining moments don't often occur on an otherwise forgettable December night, especially when a team scores 73 points and shoots 31 percent.
And moral victories don't exist in the NBA, which the Bulls readily admitted.
But what happened Wednesday night at the Palace of Auburn Hills was remarkable to watch, a ragtag team mirroring the personality of its fiery coach.
Down to nine players because of injuries and down 16 points late in the third quarter because of poor shooting, the Bulls rallied to take a fourth-quarter lead and had two possessions to tie or take the lead in the final 50 seconds.
Only when Chucky Atkins drove past Jamal Crawford for a twisting layup with 7.5 seconds left did the Bulls run out of chances, finally succumbing to Detroit 77-73 as the Pistons snapped a four-game skid.
Twice on Detroit's final possession, the Bulls almost forced a turnover, creating a microcosm for the game--intense effort coming up just short.
"The guys are taking this one hard," coach Scott Skiles said. "I'll have to try to find a way to keep them up because they really played hard.
"From a coaching standpoint, when you're playing as shorthanded as we are, you have to be proud of the team after an effort like that. Missing shots like that, we could've just mailed it in. But we kept battling."
Earlier in the final minute, Skiles drew up an inbounds play that freed Rick Brunson for a wide-open three-point attempt with the Bulls trailing 73-72. But Brunson, who contributed 12 points, five assists and four rebounds in 28 minutes, came up short.
Following two Richard Hamilton free throws, Kirk Hinrich got fouled on a drive with 30.4 seconds remaining. But Hinrich could only split the free throws, allowing Atkins' final basket to create an insurmountable four-point deficit.
"I don't care what happens," said Antonio Davis, who contributed 10 points and 14 rebounds. "We're going to fight for 48 minutes."
The second quarter proved particularly brutal. The Bulls took 2 minutes 41 seconds to score their first basket and later went 5:04 without a point.
Crawford missed all 10 of his first-half shots. The Bulls avoided tying the lowest-scoring half in franchise history when Brunson scored on a driving layup 39 seconds before halftime to give them 25 points.
There were odd lineup combinations.
Without Eddie Robinson, who sat with a sore left ankle, Skiles tried Crawford, Brunson, Marcus Fizer, Chris Jefferies and Linton Johnson at one point. They closed the third quarter with a 10-1 run that cut the deficit to 56-49 and kick-started the comeback.
Brunson continued it with eight fourth-quarter points.
"They were leaving me open and the guys found me," he said. "Then I got in a rhythm and once you get your confidence, anything can go."
Nothing went early for Crawford, who led the Bulls with 22 but is 3-of-25 on three-pointers in his last two games.
"[Stopping shooting] goes through your mind," Crawford said. "But when your teammates stay confident in you, you have to keep shooting."
Just like the Bulls kept battling.