AUBURN HILLS, Mich.—Is that it! Is that all you have!
"We beat them three times [out of four] this year, and in the [loss] we were up 16 in the third quarter," Bulls coach Scott Skiles said Wednesday night after the Bulls pummeled the Detroit Pistons 106-88 at the Palace of Auburn Hills. "The guys have played well against them."
Maybe the Bulls ought to forget moving up in the standings and try to fall to eighth just to knock out the Pistons in the first round of the NBA playoffs.
You call the Pistons the best team in the Eastern Conference?
Once again, the best team looked like the Bullseven with Ben Wallace out with a sinus infection and Ben Gordon scoring only two points in fewer than 12 foul-plagued minutes. The Bulls dominated the Pistons with effort, energy, defense, rebounding and accurate shooting.
They only place the Pistons were even was in ejections as Richard Hamilton and Tyrus Thomas were tossed early in the fourth quarter with the Bulls leading 92-69.
Hamilton, who has engaged with Kirk Hinrich and Skiles in previous games, seemed to symbolize the frustration of the Pistons. He pushed Thomas from behind away from the ball, which seemed the only way the Pistons could catch Thomas. There was some talking, some stunted moves at one another and then, as Thomas walked off, something thrown at him.
"I got hit in the face with something," Thomas said.
A 24-year-old man was arrested, bringing flashbacks to the brawl at this arena with the Pacers that started with an object thrown from the stands. A security guard said the man threw a tube of lip balm.
Perhaps it was to aid a chapped Pistons team that showed some cracks.
"They beat us good," said Chauncey Billups, who led Detroit with 17 points.
It was the sixth victory in the last seven for the 45-31 Bulls, who are a half-game behind Cleveland for the second playoff seed in the East. Of the Pistons' three biggest losses of the season, two have been to the Bulls.
The Bulls were led by Hinrich with 29 points. He scored 12 in the third quarter when the Bulls broke from a 62-62 tie for a 22-7 run and then opened the fourth quarter with eight straight before Hamilton's elbow and the Pistons' surrender as the home crowd booed.
Luol Deng added 22 points. Thabo Sefolosha, making a rare start as Skiles was successful with a clever tactic to draw the Pistons away from their game, had 11 points and 10 rebounds
With Wallace out, Skiles moved P.J. Brown to center and Deng to power forward. Trying to take advantage, the Pistons began to vary from their usual pick-and-rolls to seek postups. But with Sefolosha leading the Bulls to a 48-32 rebounding margin, they were able to field a quicker, long, active defense.
As the game progressed, Pistons players were short-arming shots inside or shooting too quickly. The Bulls' quicker defenders were active fronting and were stepping in to help and recover on moves into the paint.
"We made shots, defended well, moved the ball, had good spacing. It was an all-around good game for us," said Skiles, so was so pumped he greeted Chris Duhon with a high-five hand slap on a Duhon three-pointer to close the third period.
"During the day, if people knew Ben [Wallace] was out and if they would have known Ben Gordon would be in foul trouble, most people would have thought we would lose this game. It's significant because we're trying to move up."
And because if the Pistons are the best the East has to offer, it's too soon to count the Bulls out of anything in this postseason.