Saturday , May , 05 , 2007 C.Y. Ellis

Bulls, Pistons open East semis at The Palace

(Sports Network) – Central Division rivals clash in the Eastern Conference
semifinals, as the top-seeded Detroit Pistons host the fifth-seeded Chicago
Bulls today at The Palace of Auburn Hills.

This is a best-of-seven series. Game 2 is scheduled for Monday at The Palace.

The Bulls and Pistons will write another chapter in what was once the most
heated rivalry in the Eastern Conference during the late 1980s and into the
early 1990s.

There is a lot of playoff history between Chicago and Detroit. This is the
sixth time these clubs have battled in the postseason. The Pistons have won
three of the five series.

Chicago eliminated the Pistons in seven games in the 1974 Western Conference
semifinals and swept Detroit, 4-0, in the 1991 Eastern Conference finals.

The Pistons beat the Bulls in five, 4-1, in the 1988 East semis. They also
knocked out Chicago in the Eastern Conference finals in 1989 (4-2) and 1990

Detroit won its fifth Central Division title in the past six seasons during
the 2006-07 campaign. The Pistons, who have reached the postseason for a sixth
straight year, fell in six games against the Miami Heat in last year’s Eastern
Conference Finals. The Pistons are the No. 1 seed for the third time in four
years and own home-court advantage throughout the East playoffs.

In round one, the Pistons swept Dwight Howard and No. 8 Orlando, 4-0. All-
Stars Chauncey Billups and Richard Hamilton led the way for Detroit. Billups
averaged team-highs in points (22.3 ppg) and assists (7.0 apg), while Hamilton
posted 18.3 points per game.

The unsung hero of the Pistons Tayshaun Prince did his usual stellar job. He
averaged 16.5 points, 5.3 boards and 3.8 assists while also playing excellent
defense. Rasheed Wallace contributed 15.3 points and 7.8 rebounds per game,
while Chris Webber registered 12.0 points and 7.8 boards.

Detroit has appeared in the East finals four straight years and has made it to
at least the conference semifinals for a sixth straight year.

Former Piston Ben Wallace and the Bulls are fresh off a surprising sweep of
the 2006 NBA Champion Miami Heat. Ben Wallace, who signed with Chicago as an
unrestrictive free agent last offseason, left Central Division-rival Detroit
and signed a lucrative, multi-year contract with the Bulls last summer. A
four-time All-Star, Ben Wallace spent the previous six seasons with the
Pistons and helped them win an NBA title in 2004.

Against the Heat, who became the first defending champion to be swept in the
first round since the 1957 Warriors, Chicago played tough interior defense and
knocked down the clutch shots.

Luol Deng shined against the Heat, as he averaged a team-best 26.3 points and
9.0 rebounds. Ben Wallace collected 9.3 points and a club-high 9.8 boards in
round one, while sharp-shooting Ben Gordon posted 25.5 points, 5.3 rebounds
and a team-high 5.5 assists per game.

Chicago advanced past the opening round of the playoffs for the first time
since 1998, when it last won the NBA title. Prior to defeating Miami, the
Bulls last playoff series victory was over the Utah Jazz in six games during
the 1998 NBA Finals.

The Bulls are in the playoffs for the third straight year and 28th time in
team history. The six-time NBA champion Bulls had lost in the first round the
previous two years. They fell in six games to the Washington Wizards in 2005
and were eliminated by Miami last year.

During the regular season, the Bulls won three of the four meetings between
the clubs. Chicago and the Pistons split a pair at The Palace of Auburn Hills,
and the Bulls swept two contests at the United Center.