It was one thing for the Bulls, playoff position at stake, to fall behind the lowly Detroit Pistons by 18 points at halftime Friday.
But the way they were getting pounded on the glass by Pistons center Andre Drummond practically tore down everything the Bulls stand for as an aggressive, physical team.
In the first half, Drummond single-handedly outrebounded the Bulls 19-17. The second-year center from Connecticut, who won't turn 21 until August, eventually finished with 26 points and 26 boards.
Still trailing by 18 midway through the third quarter, the Bulls stormed back by scoring a season-high 68 points in the second half and pulled out a 106-98 victory at the United Center. The Bulls' seventh straight victory lifted them past Toronto into third place in the Eastern Conference. The Raptors lost to New York on Friday.
"You have to have the ability to take a punch in this league. We did," coach Tom Thibodeau said. "The most important thing was finding a way to win."
Offensively, the Bulls (47-32) got big finishes from their two most reliable late-game scorers. D.J. Augustin scored 12 of his team-high 24 points in the fourth quarter. Taj Gibson not only scored 11 in the fourth, he had 2 monster blocks and a couple of big dunks to get the crowd fired up.
"Derrick (Rose) is sitting next to me all the time during these games," Gibson said. "He's like, 'In four minutes, this can change.' It reminded me of how we used to play when we had Derrick. No matter how much we got down, at the end of the game, we know we had a chance to win. Guys kept believing."
The comeback was impressive, but the inside battle with Drummond was another interesting contest. The Pistons locker room was deserted 20 minutes after the final horn. While putting on his coat, Drummond said matching up against Noah didn't provide any special inspiration.
"I'm just on a mission. 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."
Detroit's 18-point lead lasted until the 7:10 mark of the third quarter when a pair of free throws by Rodney Stuckey gave the Pistons a 67-49 advantage. The Bulls chipped away, but still trailed 80-70 at the end of three when Stuckey hit runner at the buzzer.
The Bulls turned up the intensity a few notches when the fourth quarter began and launched an 18-3 run. The Bulls tied the game at 83-83 on a pair of Augustin free throws with 8:10 remaining. Augustin then found guard Jimmy Butler for a cutting lay in and hit Gibson on the fast break for a layup and 3-point play. All of the sudden, the Bulls led 90-83 with 6:13 remaining.
"That's a playoff team. They know what it takes to make a team nervous and make a team do things they're not used to doing," Drummond said. "Us being a young team, we fell right into their hands. They did what they're best at doing, which is play great defense."
Getting to the No. 3 seed had Noah looking forward to Sunday night's game at Madison Square Garden against the Knicks. New York is in dire straits, trailing Atlanta by two games for the final playoff spot with three games left.
"That means the game in the Garden is going to be popping," Noah said at his locker. "It's going to be an exciting game and I like it when it's popping in the Garden."