By Mike McGraw
Getting Joakim Noah and Marco Belinelli back in the lineup should have been good news for the Bulls.
But there also was a departure — Luol Deng sat out Sunday night’s game in Detroit with a sore hip. The Pistons decided to rise up and finally end their 18-game losing streak to the Bulls, their 99-85 victory being their first since Dec. 23, 2008.
The run ended as the second-longest winning streak over a single opponent in Bulls history. They won 19 straight against the Pistons from 1992-96.
Deng does not think his injury is serious, but he wasn’t sure if he will play Tuesday when the Bulls host Toronto.
“The one thing about Luol, he gives you that edge,” coach Tom Thibodeau told reporters after the game. “When he’s out, we need people to step up and give us that edge. We’ve got to get that back, and we’ve got to get it back quick.”
Noah looked pretty good in his 21 minutes, hitting all 4 of his shots to finish with 13 points, 7 rebounds and 3 assists. Belinelli came off the bench to play 20 minutes and did not score.
Thibodeau didn’t want to blame changing chemistry for the loss to Detroit, which hadn’t won a home game since the all-star break. Nate Robinson started at shooting guard Sunday.
“Because there’s a change, we can’t use that as an excuse,” Thibodeau said. “Whoever’s out there, we’ve got to get the job done. We responded the other way when guys went out. Now when guys are coming back, we’ve got to respond the proper way.
“We’ve got to be focused, we have to concentrate, and we have to give maximum effort. We have to have that edge. We have to play with great intensity. If we don’t we’re in trouble.”
The Bulls jumped out to an 18-7 lead after Robinson found Carlos Boozer cutting down the lane for a dunk. Detroit bounced back, though, and actually took the lead for good at the 9:10 mark of the second quarter when Charlie Villanueva knocked down a 3-pointer.
Getting contributions from a number of players, the Pistons slowly pulled away. The Bulls stayed within 65-61 at the 3:51 mark of the third quarter after a Boozer jumper. A 6-0 run by Detroit stretch the lead to 10, and the Bulls never made a run in the fourth quarter.
At the morning shootaround, Derrick Rose spoke to reporters and said he hasn’t ruled out playing this season, even though the Bulls are down to six games for the regular season.
“I’m keeping it open,” Rose said. “I’ll play whenever I’m ready to play. Who knows when I’m ready to? Right now all I can do is just cheer on my teammates.”
Rose said talk that he’s waiting to come back when he can play heavy minutes is not true.
“I wouldn’t mind (playing limited minutes) at all,” he said. “Of course I want to play more, but it’s not that big. I’m going to play whenever I’m ready. I don’t care if it’s 15 or 40.
“I just love the game too much. I’m just waiting, just praying about it and hopefully I’ll be out there soon.”
With Sunday’s loss, the Bulls fell 2 games behind Brooklyn for fourth place in the East, while Indiana officially clinched the Central Division title.
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