With seven games to play in the regular season, the Chicago Bulls can close the gap on the Eastern Conference's top seed with a win tonight against the Detroit Pistons at The Palace of Auburn Hills.
Chicago is 3 1/2 games ahead of hard-charging Miami and is coming off a 96-86 overtime victory versus the Heat on Thursday. Reigning MVP Derrick Rose returned the lineup for his second game in 30 days, but was a non-factor with just two points on 1-for-13 shooting.
Carlos Boozer led the way with 19 points and 11 rebounds, while Luol Deng and C.J. Watson both scored 16 points for the Central Division-champion Bulls, winners in two straight and nine of 13 games. Kyle Korver scored 17 points off the bench, burying 5 of 6 three-pointers in the process.
"Tonight is great for the standings. It gives us more cushion. We want to have homecourt. If nothing else, if there is a Game 7, it is going to be played here," Korver said after Chicago posted a 12-2 advantage in overtime.
The Bulls will try to stop a two-game slide on the road and are 21-8 as the visitor this season.
Detroit is playing out the string and will resume a three-game homestand tonight versus the division-rival Bulls. Detroit has played well in the late stages of the season, but has dropped four of five games since winning five of the previous six.
The Pistons opened the residency with Friday's 113-97 loss to the playoff- hopeful Milwaukee Bucks in a battle of Central foes, as Brandon Knight scored 25 points and Ben Gordon had 24 in defeat.
"Tonight they were the only ones playing with desperation and urgency," Pistons coach Lawrence Frank said on the team's website. "We started feeling a little sorry for ourselves, and they took advantage of it."
Frank opted not to play leading scorers Rodney Stuckey and Tayshaun Prince for the fourth quarter. Stuckey, averaging 15.8 points, had seven points and five turnovers in 16 minutes. Prince had just four points, nine below his average, in 24 minutes of work. Milwaukee's starters outscored the Pistons starters by a lopsided 94-58 margin.
Detroit is 15-13 as the host and will close out the homestand Tuesday versus Cleveland -- another Central Division inhabitant.
The Pistons are winless (0-3) against Chicago this season and will try to avoid being swept in this series for a third straight year. The Bulls have won 14 straight and 19 of 21 matchups with Detroit, losers of six in a row at home against the Bulls. Chicago's current winning streak in this series is the longest since a 19-game run in the mid 1990s.
Detroit's last win against Chicago was a 104-98 verdict on Dec. 23, 2008 at The Palace. Stuckey had 40 points in that one.