Tuesday , Apr , 03 , 2007 C.Y. Ellis

Bulls prepare for crucial showdown

(Sports Network) – The Bulls just beat them last week and have a 2-1 lead in
the season series, but this time the Detroit Pistons are home and have a
chance to erase any hope Chicago has at winning a division title.

Chicago hasn’t won the Central Division since the Michael Jordan-led squad
of 1997-98 hoisted the Larry O’Brien trophy in the back end of its second
three-peat and sixth World Championship in franchise history.

Right now the Bulls are four games off Detroit’s lead in the division, while
the Cleveland Cavaliers are second in the standings at 3 1/2 games back.
Chicago wasted a golden opportunity at home on Saturday when it lost in
overtime to LeBron James and the rival Cavs.

Scott Skiles’ squad, though, rebounded with Sunday’s 105-97 road victory
over the Atlanta Hawks and won for the fifth time in six games. The big
win was necessary for Chicago’s upcoming battle with Detroit, and a win
over the Pistons on Wednesday at The Palace would give the Bulls a 12-4
record versus the Central Division.

Despite already punching their ticket to the postseason, the Bulls’ remaining
schedule features two showdowns with New Jersey and games against the Atlantic
Division-leading and playoff-bound Toronto Raptors and the Southeast Division-
leading Washington Wizards.

Skiles has been getting all he can from rookie forward Tyrus Thomas this
season, and the first-year phenom is averaging 16.0 points, 8.7 rebounds and
30.7 minutes over his last three games.

Thomas registered a career-high 27 points in 39 minutes in Saturday’s setback
against Cleveland, but scored seven of his eight points in the fourth quarter
against Atlanta after missing his first five shots. Thomas also sparked his
team with a few dazzling dunks, including one over Hawks star Josh Smith, who
is also known for defying gravity with tremendous jams.

At 44-31 and fifth in the East standings, Chicago has seven more games to play
before the postseason layout is complete and will surely be one of the
top teams (Detroit, Cleveland) to beat in the conference.