Bulls driving for playoffs past misfiring Pistons


Mar 29

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Hey, folks, we’ve got a playoff race.

How the heck did that happen?

But here are the Bulls, riding this hot streak of 11 losses in the last 15 games to streak within a half game of eighth place Toronto after Sunday’s 110-103 win over the Detroit Pistons.

Ya gotta love the Eastern Conference. Hooray for geography.

“I’ve never, ever in my life gone through a season like this,” Brad Miller was saying. “The lows, the highs. This is unbelievable. You’re not supposed to lose 10 games in a row in March and have this chance.”

But yet here are the Bulls at 35-38 with their fourth win in the last five and right there with gagging, gasping Toronto, which coughed up a 17-point lead Sunday in Miami to lose their 13th in the last 17 with dysfunction overtaking their lack of function.

Free agent acquisition Hedo Turkoglu was benched for apparently pretending to be sick and then going out and partying, or maybe partying and coming to work not exactly in shape. The Raptors remained mum about all that. Chris Bosh came up small again with 19 points and six rebounds, but just four points and one rebound in the fourth quarter as the Raptors were blowing an 11-point lead with six minutes left to fall to 35-37.

Meanwhile, in Auburn Hills the Bulls were sweeping the Pistons for the season behind 23 points for Flip Murray off the bench, 21 points and nine assists with just one turnover from Derrick Rose and 17 points from Miller. The sweep was the Bulls first over Detroit in 14 years and the Bulls have now won seven straight over the Pistons.

“That is our team,” said Miller. “We share the ball and we make shots and we don’t really know who it’s going to be each night.”

And suddenly the Bulls are laughing and enjoying themselves again, up and hooting at Miller as he back rimmed a dunk attempt late in the game and a bit earlier up en masse on the bench as Joakim Noah, with six points and up to just over 17 minutes, gave Jason Maxiell a slam dunk facial. Later coming down the stretch, the bench erupted in high fives on a Rose pass to Murray for a driving score to make it 102-86 with about four minutes left and game.

Yes, our dour Bulls.

Miller added five assists and quipped, “If we could get Taj (Gibson) to catch the ball I’d have more assists and he’d have more easy baskets.”

Yes, it was good times again as after falling behind 5-0 to open the game, the Bulls pulled ahead within the next two minutes and then trailed for 40 seconds the rest of the game.

“We got great production from Hakim (Warrick) and Flip,” said Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro of each having a dozen points in the second quarter as the Bulls blew out to a 62-44 halftime lead on 61 percent shooting. “Derrick attacked the basket, Brad was effective and overall it was a good team effort and another road win for us. (Flip) was great and gave us a big boost. Guys were making plays and we shot a pretty good field goal percentage tonight. Overall, on the glass we did good. I thought we got a little stagnant in the second half, but we got good bench production and we got some stops when we needed to.”

Gibson, who just missed another double/double with nine points and 10 rebounds, opened the third with a three point play for a 21-point lead. But the Pistons, led by Richard Hamilton with 29 but now losers of 15 of 17, made a bit of a run to get within nine late in the third before James Johnson hit a three. Johnson was back starting after his own plantar fasciitis issue and had nine points.

The Pistons got back within eight to open the fourth quarter. But Miller hit a 20 footer and Kirk Hinrich added a pair of jumpers while Ben Gordon, who had three points on one of five shooting in 14 minutes, missed a pair of threes.

Though Gordon termed his problems this season just bad luck, injuries and adjustments, his fall has been astounding and it had to eat at him to see the Bulls celebrating and enjoying the games meaning something while he fills a lost role as fourth guard.

I have been told that many of Ben’s issues stem from the real life story that is the plot in the Michael Jordan Space Jam movie. That’s when the alien Nerdlucks come to Earth to steal the talent of NBA players like Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing and Shawn Bradley, though there wasn’t much to get from Bradley. It is quite possible that Ben’s talent was stolen by a Nerdluck because he certainly cannot play anymore.

While the Bulls seem back in the game, surprisingly after that Thursday embarrassment against the Miami Heat.

The Bulls shot a sizzling 54.9 percent, though the Pistons are pretty much sleep walking to get this season over with. The Bulls attacked the basket, getting 34 free throws, and a Noah tip in with 1:08 left made it 105-94 before the Pistons made some meaningless shots down the stretch to get it closer.

“We are just trying to come together and play some good basketball right now,” said Rose. “We just have to keep it going, focus and play strong defense. It is here now. Everybody is coming and playing hard for us. We are playing good defense right now, rebounding the ball and running. That is the way that we play.”

And so the Bulls have the exact record they did last season after 73 games and won six of nine to close at 41-41. That should be good enough to make the playoffs. Will the Bulls be good enough? It’s been a start this weekend.

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