CHICAGO — At halftime of Friday night’s game at the United Center, the Detroit Pistons held a couple of impressive advantages.
They led the Chicago Bulls by 18 points and center Andre Drummond had single-handedly outrebounded the entire Bulls team 19-17.
Drummond ended up with 26 points and 26 rebounds, but Chicago rallied in the second half to pull off a 106-98 victory. The Bulls scored a season-high 68 points after halftime.
The win was the Bulls’ seventh straight and vaulted them past the Toronto Raptors into third place in the Eastern Conference. The Raptors lost to New York on Friday night.
“You have to have the ability to take a punch in this league. We did,” Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau said. “The most important thing was finding a way to win.”
Guard DJ Augustin led Chicago (47-32) with 24 points. Forward Carlos Boozer added 18, forward Taj Gibson scored 17 and forward Mike Dunleavy had 14.
Center Joakim Noah finished with six points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists. In the first quarter, Noah became the eighth center in NBA history with at least 400 assists in a season.
“We just found a way,” Noah said. “We couldn’t buy a bucket in the first half, energy low. We came out at the end and found a way to get it done. I just wish we could play the way we played in the fourth for the whole game. Sometimes that doesn’t happen.”
Pistons guard Rodney Stuckey scored 22 points and guard Brandon Jennings had 17.
It was the second time this season that Drummond grabbed 26 rebounds in a game. The second-year center from Connecticut does not even turn 21 until August.
“I’m on a mission to be the No. 1 rebounder in the league,” Drummond said. “So whoever I have to take out, I’m going to have to take him out. That was my mission for tonight and every other night that I play basketball is to be the best every night rebounding.”
Two free throws by Stuckey gave the Pistons a 67-49 advantage with 7:10 left in the third quarter. The Bulls chipped away but still trailed 80-70 when Stuckey finished the third quarter with an 11-foot runner at the buzzer.
Chicago turned up the intensity a few notches in the fourth quarter, though, opening with an 18-3 run. The Bulls tied the score at 83 on two free throws by Augustin with 8:10 remaining.
Augustin then found guard Jimmy Butler for a cutting lay-in and hit Gibson on a fast break for a layup and three-point play. Suddenly, Chicago was in command at 90-83 with 6:13 remaining.
“(Injured guard) Derrick (Rose) is sitting next to me all the time during these games,” Gibson said. “He’s like, ‘In four minutes, this can change.'”
Detroit (29-51) got within four points a couple of times, but the Bulls always had an answer. When Augustin missed a shot, grabbed his own rebound and found Gibson for a flying, one-handed dunk, Chicago led 100-90 with 2:26 left.
“That’s a playoff team,” Drummond said. “They know what it takes to make a team nervous and make a team do things they’re not used to doing. Us being a young team, we fell right into their hands. They did what they’re best at doing, which is play great defense.”
The Bulls clinched home-court advantage in the opening round of the playoffs. They have three games left in the regular season, beginning Sunday at New York.
NOTES: Detroit F Josh Smith missed his third straight game with left patellar tendinitis. … On Wednesday in a game against Minnesota, Chicago C Joakim Noah set a franchise record for most assists in a season by a center, passing Tom Boerwinkle’s mark of 397 set in 1970-71. Heading into Friday’s action, Noah ranked 14th in NBA history for assists in a season by a center. … The last time the Pistons visited Chicago, they snapped a 14-game losing streak at United Center with a 92-75 victory on Dec. 7. … After adding three new players this week, the Bulls have the maximum 15 players on their roster for the first time this season. F Lou Amundson was inactive on Friday, along with G Derrick Rose, who is recovering from knee surgery.
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