Bulls can't hold early lead, lose Palace finale

The two most famous games in the history of Bulls vs. Pistons at the Palace of Auburn Hills are known for The Handshake and The Headache.

When the Bulls won the Eastern Conference finals in 1991, the Pistons infamously walked off the court before time expired, without shaking hands, The previous year, the Bulls lost Game 7 of the conference finals with Scottie Pippen rendered ineffective by a migraine.

Monday's 109-95 loss was the Bulls' final regular-season game at the Palace and a catchy nickname doesn't really come to mind for this one. Maybe, The Night The Young Guys Couldn't Hold An Early Lead.

Dwyane Wade (thigh) and Rajon Rondo (ankle) didn't play, leaving the Bulls with an even younger lineup than usual. They led 26-14 after one quarter and the score was tied at the end of three, but Detroit dominated the fourth quarter 30-16.

"I thought we played some really good basketball, especially without Dwyane and Rajon out there," Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg told reporters after the game. "They got off to the start they needed to in the fourth and we didn't. They took it to us, built a lead and we didn't recover."

Jimmy Butler led the Bulls with 27 points and 9 rebounds, while center Robin Lopez added 18 points. When the fourth quarter began, those two were taking a rest, leaving the Bulls with a young lineup of Cameron Payne, Denzel Valentine, Michael Carter-Williams, Nikola Mirotic and Cristiano Felicio on the floor.

By the time Butler checked in, the Bulls trailed by 5 and couldn't recover. Payne was the top scorer off the bench with 14 points on 5 of 14 shooting. He knocked down 4 shots from 3-point range.

After the game, Hoiberg thought Payne took good shots for the most part, sometimes taking advantage of the Pistons double-teams against Butler.

"I thought he was solid," Hoiberg said of Payne. "I thought he took a couple shots that could have taken one more bounce to the rim or kicked out for a shot. But this is really the first meaningful big minutes that he's getting in this league and it's all valuable for him. He's not afraid of the moment."

The Bulls have been in playoff position most of the season, but the race is starting to tighten with 19 games left in the regular season. The Bulls and Pistons are now tied for seventh place in the East at 31-32, while Miami and Milwaukee are 1½ games behind.

Next season, the Pistons will move into a new downtown Detroit arena they'll share with the NHL's Red Wings. Former Bulls center Luc Longley was on hand to enjoy the final stop.

The Bulls won more games at the Palace than any other visiting team, regular season and playoffs, but they left the building with a losing record all-time at 32-40.

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