AUBURN HILLS, Mich.—If the Bulls ever get to where they believe they can go, they will remember Tuesday night at The Palace of Auburn Hills.
Two tough victories, not to mention two more series, are needed to validate their championship aspirations.
But this is what title teams do: They stare down history, odds, elimination and any other obstacle with a convincing 108-92 victory. On the road.
"You're talking about a team that started the [2004-05] season with nine straight losses," Luol Deng said. "We started last year and this year not so well. We never give up. No matter what it is when we're out there, whether it's going good or bad, we just keep playing."
And they will again on Thursday night at the United Center, pushing these Eastern Conference semifinals to a sixth game with a total team effort.
The Bulls received more contributions than a charity. Even Michael Sweetney cheered well.
Ben Gordon broke out of his scoring slump with 28 points on 10 of 16 shooting, Kirk Hinrich added 17 points and 13 assists and Luol Deng added 20 points as the Bulls flirted with a franchise-playoff-record shooting percentage all game.
Fourth-quarter garbage time made them "settle" for 57.3 percent, off the mark of 61.7 percent set on June 5, 1991 at home against the Lakers. But their astounding 67.3 percent shooting through three quarters spoke to their offensive dominance with fluid ball and player movement.
"I don't think they expected us to shoot like that," Deng said. "But we did a great job of executing and finding the open guy. And we have guys who can knock down shots. We played the way we normally do and handled their zone much better."
Such an outcome seemed almost unfathomable with the way the Bulls played here in the first two games.
To wit, the Bulls passed their Game 1 scoring output of 69 points with 7 minutes 55 seconds left in the third quarter on a hook by P.J. Brown, who had 15 points and eight rebounds.
"We went out and established that at least we were going to be here," coach Scott Skiles said. "When they made runs, we were able to make big plays."
Indeed, the Bulls seemed to have answers for every challenge the Pistons posed.
When the Pistons pulled within 68-62 in the third, Brown creaked home a fast-break layup. When Chris Webber dunked over an immobile Ben Wallace to make it 72-64, Hinrich responded with a three-pointer.
Hinrich's shot kick-started a 13-0 Bulls run for an 85-64 lead as Chauncey Billups sat on the bench with four fouls, the fourth drawn by Hinrich as he took a charge with 7:36 left in the third.
"A big play," Skiles said.
Thomas tip-slammed home a Deng miss and Gordon drained a three to highlight the charge. The run grew to 18-3 as Gordon drained another three-pointer, this one in transition as the Bulls pushed the ball at every opportunity.
After trailing by nine and 16 points in the first quarters of Games 1 and 2 here, the Bulls talked about getting off to a good start. Nobody mentioned anything about near-perfect.
The Bulls hit eight of their first nine shots and shot 77.8 percent in the first quarter and 72.2 percent in taking a 59-51 halftime lead.