The Detroit Pistons knew they couldn’t afford another loss on Friday if they wanted to have any chance of keeping in touch of a playoff spot.
For 18 minutes, it appeared they might come up short for a fifth straight game, but they finished strongly to post a 99-83 victory over the Chicago Bulls.
Chicago led 39-29 midway through the second quarter, but Detroit outscored the Bulls 70-44 in the last 2 ½ quarters.
“I thought our defense was pretty good all night, but the offense didn’t really get going until the second quarter,” Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy said. “After that, we played really well.”
The Pistons needed the victory as they prepare for a six-game road trip caused by the NCAA men’s basketball tournament games coming to Little Caesars Arena. All six games are against Western Conference opponents.
“We had to get this one, just to give ourselves some confidence going on the road,” James Ennis said. “We didn’t have a great start, but we focused on stringing together some stops and making some shots.”
Blake Griffin had 25 points, eight rebounds and eight assists, and is averaging 28 points in his last four games.
“Blake wants to win basketball games,” Ennis said. “That’s how superstars play.”
The Pistons (30-36) had lost 10 of 12 to fall five games out of the final Eastern Conference playoff spot. Reggie Bullock added 21 points while Andre Drummond had 17 rebounds.
“Blake and Reggie are very good basketball players, so it isn’t a surprise that the chemistry there has come quickly,” Van Gundy said.
Chicago (22-43) had won two of three after a five-game losing streak. Cameron Payne led the Bulls with 17 points, while Kris Dunn was the only other player to reach double figures with 13.
“I thought we came out really well, but we missed a lot of shots,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “When you shoot 35 percent on the road, you aren’t going to give yourself much of a chance, plus 14 turnovers.”
The Pistons took their first lead of the game on two free throws by Griffin that put them ahead 49-47 with 1.1 seconds left in the first half. The Bulls had led by as many as 10 points in the second quarter.
Griffin had 15 points in the half, while Bullock added 10. Robin Lopez had nine for Chicago, but the Bulls starters were outscored 41-32 in the half.
Detroit took control of the game in the third quarter, starting the period with a 14-5 run that put them ahead 63-52. Griffin and Bullock combined for 10 points in the run.
Eric Moreland’s layup at the buzzer gave the Pistons a 73-62 lead going into the fourth quarter. Chicago never made a significant run from there.
“I don’t think we had a lack of effort,” Hoiberg said. “We held them under 100 points, so that’s a positive.”
Bulls: Bobby Portis was called for a flagrant 1 foul early in the third quarter for hitting Drummond in the head on an attempted dunk. The Pistons didn’t score, as Drummond missed both free throws before Bullock missed a 3-pointer . Lopez made the third 3-pointer of his career, all of which have come this season.
Pistons: Backup point guard Dwight Buycks missed the game with a sprained left ankle sustained while helping Reggie Jackson rehab his own ankle injury. … The Pistons only play two home games in the first 23 days of March due to the Horizon League men’s and women’s basketball tournaments and the NCAA tournament.
GORES ON VAN GUNDY
Pistons owner Tom Gores spoke to the media at halftime about Van Gundy’s future as coach and team president. “We haven’t won enough, but this team works very hard and Stan works very hard,” Gores said. “We’ll talk about things after the season, but I’m not giving up on Stan or this team.”
Van Gundy said after the game that he’s not concerned. “I’ve never had a better relationship with an owner, and I know Tom is going to make the decision that is the best one for the franchise,” he said. “I’m not apprehensive about that. I’m losing sleep over the fact we had lost 10 of 12.”
Bulls: At the Atlanta Hawks on Sunday.
Pistons: At the Utah Jazz on Tuesday.