Thursday , Mar , 29 , 2007 C.Y. Ellis

Bulls blow big lead, hang on to beat Pistons

Chicago, IL (Sports Network) – Kirk Hinrich nailed two free throws with 2.8
seconds left, as the Bulls overcame blowing a 12-point lead in the final
quarter to beat the shorthanded Detroit Pistons, 83-81, to tighten the race in
the Central Division.

Ben Gordon had 25 points for Chicago, which won for the eighth time in 10
contests to officially clinch a playoff spot. Luol Deng added 16 points and
Ben Wallace was a force in the middle with 19 rebounds against his former
team.

“It was definitely a lot closer than it needed to be,” Gordon said. “We had to
rely on our offensive rebounding and second chance points. It’s usually the
other team that wins those kind of games, especially a great team like
Detroit.”

The Bulls remained in third place in the division, but moved within three
games behind first-place Detroit and just a half-game back of Cleveland for
second.

Chicago won at home over Detroit for just the second time in the last 14
meetings.

“At the beginning of the year we had a lot of blowouts,” Chicago coach Scott
Skiles said. “Now, these close games pile up and we have to look back on this
stretch of close games and realize we have a legitimate chance to control what
we do.”

Detroit played without guard Richard Hamilton and forward Chris Webber, both
of whom were out with the flu. Hamilton sat out his third consecutive game,
while Webber was sent home and missed his second straight contest.

Tayshaun Prince scored 25 points for the Pistons, who had a two-game winning
streak broken.

Chauncey Billups, who was limited to 12 points on 3-of-16 shooting for
Detroit, drove the lane for a layup with 48.1 seconds left to bring the
Pistons within 81-79.

Tyrus Thomas then lost the ball along the right baseline, and the Pistons tied
the game. Carlos Delfino missed a jumper, but the ball deflected to Prince in
the lane, and he converted the shot with 9.8 seconds remaining.

Hinrich then faked a shot, ducked under the defense before being fouled by
Delfino while trying a three from the top of the circle. Hinrich missed the
first attempt, but made the final two tries.

“I felt like they were flying at me,” Hinrich said. “I was a little bit off
balance, but they got me. It’s a feel thing. Any time in the game when someone
flies at you, you’ll give a little head fake and see what happens.”

Out of a timeout, Prince missed the potential tying jumper under heavy
pressure from Deng, as the Bulls held on for their fourth straight win.

“Delfino is a young player who loses concentration sometimes,” Detroit coach
Flip Saunders said. “His mistake was not because of a lack of effort. Then the
last shot, all I wanted was for it to go in. Seriously, Tayshaun had the ball
and they were holding onto his left hand, which they hadn’t done all night,
which allowed him to get free. Deng hung on him and didn’t let up at the end.”

Thomas ended with 13 points and 10 rebounds, while Hinrich scored 15 and had
eight assists.

Rasheed Wallace had 19 points for the Pistons, who shot 41.3 percent from the
field.

The Bulls led 25-17 after one quarter before Detroit surged to a 41-38 lead at
the half. It was 61-60 in favor of the home team going into the fourth.

Deng’s jam extended Chicago’s cushion to 79-67 with just under four minutes
left, but despite the large deficit and without two of their best players, the
Pistons came back.

Prince made two free throws, and Rasheed Wallace nailed a three. Delfino
drilled another shot from beyond the arc to get Detroit within four with 2:09
left.

Thomas then jammed off a pass from Deng, but the Bulls then fell apart in the
last 1:50.

Gordon missed two foul shots, and two from Prince at the charity stripe had
Detroit within 81-77 with 1:29 left.

Game Notes

Rasheed Wallace picked up his 19th technical foul of the season with 6:45 left
in the third quarter. One more technical will result in another automatic one-
game suspension…Antonio McDyess had 10 rebounds for Detroit, which
outrebounded the Bulls, 51-37…The Bulls host the Cavaliers Saturday
afternoon, while the Pistons next host New Jersey on Friday…The Bulls beat
the Pistons for just the fourth time in the last 20 meetings.

CHI DET