Ben Wallace wore his hair in braids Tuesday night at the United Center, all the better to try to blend in with his Detroit teammates as they badly outrebounded and outhustled the Bulls.
Then again, Afro or no Afro, Wallace's 17 rebounds stood out in the Pistons' 105-89 victory, its ninth straight overall and seventh straight in Chicago.
And he had plenty of help. Tayshaun Prince, Corliss Williamson, even Darvin Ham; you name the Piston and he got an offensive rebound. Detroit enjoyed a 56-35 rebounding advantage and had 21 second-chance points.
"They were more active," coach Scott Skiles said. "We weren't even near Ben Wallace. That's distressing because that was the biggest part of our game plan."
The loss ruined the return of Scottie Pippen, who missed 20 games after arthroscopic surgery on his left knee. Unfortunately, the Bulls couldn't activate Pippen, circa 1997. He might have been able to help rebound.
Why Eddy Curry couldn't is a mixture of playing time and mystery. Curry didn't play the entire third quarter, then got booed by the crowd of 17,295 in the fourth when Elden Campbell slipped free for a dunk.
Curry, who has become the fans' favorite object of derision, finished with two points and two rebounds in 14 minutes.
"It's effort," Pippen said. "You have to want the ball. Right now, we're not playing hard enough to win games. That's not a good sign. We have to play more desperate."
Detroit used a 19-5 run to open its biggest lead at 88-68. That's when Skiles inserted a wild lineup of Jamal Crawford, Kirk Hinrich, Ronald Dupree, Eddie Robinson and Marcus Fizer. That group responded with a 15-2 run to make it briefly interesting.
Crawford shot 6-of-20 and had trouble guarding Richard Hamilton, who led Detroit with 24 points.
Hinrich led the Bulls with 19 points and a season-high-tying 12 assists.
Pippen surprised many when he returned from surgery in four weeks and four days. After the Dec. 12 procedure, management said Pippen would miss a minimum of six weeks.
"I'm feeling about as good as I'm going to feel at this age," said Pippen, 38. "In a sense, I was waiting for something that's not going to happen. I understand what my limitations are. I'll try to see if I can hide them."
Skiles helped, following doctors' orders and limiting Pippen's minutes to 12.
To make room for Pippen, the Bulls placed Chris Jefferies on the injured list with what management called a sprained left ankle.
Pistons 105, Bulls 89
Pistons dominate Bulls again
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