Feb. 18—In the first half, it looked to be an easy night in Chicago as the Pistons started their five-game road trip.
The start was better than the finish.
The Pistons built a 25-point lead near the end of the second quarter and watched it evaporate in the second half, as the Bulls rallied and grabbed a 105-102 victory on Wednesday night at United Center.
Jerami Grant had a spectacular game, with a career-high 43 points, including 19 in the fourth quarter. The fourth quarter was a back-and-forth duel with the Bulls’ Zach LaVine, who finished with 37 points.
The loss ends the Pistons’ first win streak of the season, in a game that was moved up from the second half of the season, after the Bulls and Pistons both had games postponed Wednesday.
In the second quarter, the Pistons had a 14-0 run, with five points each from Saddiq Bey and Dennis Smith Jr. and led, 47-27. They had their biggest margin, 59-34, with 2:39 left in the first half after a 3-pointer by Grant and a basket by Mason Plumlee.
The game turned around in the third quarter, where the Pistons had an 18-point lead out of halftime after a 6-0 run to finish the second period. The Bulls continued that for a 29-6 run to trim the lead to 67-66 at the 2:49 mark.
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“It began the last two minutes of the first half. The momentum kind of shifted and changed. As much as we preached about it at halftime how they’re going to come out of the locker room, guns blazing with energy,” coach Dwane Casey said. “The hardest thing to do in this league is play with the lead. That’s something that we got to learn how to do; we haven’t been in that position very much.”
LaVine carried the Bulls (12-15) with 15 points during the spurt, but Grant helped stabilize the Pistons with four points in the final stretch of the period, and the Pistons held on to a 73-70 lead entering the fourth. It ended up being a 27-12 scoring margin for the Bulls.
“Possessions are very important; you can’t gamble. You can’t go for phantom steals and miss in those situations,” Casey said. “You’ve got to make sure you’re strong with the ball because they’re going to be over-aggressive. The officials are going to go with the momentum. It was a perfect storm, but it started in the last few minutes.”
The Bulls had another big run and took the lead for good, with a basket by Garrett Temple for a 74-73 advantage. Wendell Carter Jr. (17 points) hit a jumper and Patrick Williams (15 points).
The Pistons rallied behind Grant in the fourth quarter and got within 87-86 with 4:04 remaining.
Grant finished with 19 of the Pistons’ 29 points in the final period and kept the Pistons close, trading baskets with the Bulls in the final three minutes. His three-point play got him to 37 points but LaVine answered with a 3-pointer.
Bey got a loose ball for a 3-pointer to stay within two points and LaVine responded with a dunk on the other end. Grant hit a fadeaway, to start a string of three straight scores on possessions, but the Pistons didn’t get a stop when they needed it.
“Winning matters over personal play. We could’ve done a better job obviously in the third quarter,” Grant said. “We gave them the lead and down the stretch, we missed a couple shots that we normally make, but we gave up the game in that third quarter.”
The Pistons had a final shot at tying the game, but Delon Wright’s 3-point attempt missed and the Bulls held on for their second straight win.
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