AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — The last time the Bulls lost to the Pistons, Derrick Rose was a rookie, Tom Thibodeau worked for Doc Rivers in Boston and the Indiana Pacers hadn’t won a Central Division title since 2003-04.
With Rose still sidelined following offseason knee surgery and Thibodeau stomping around in disgust on the sidelines, the Pistons ended their 18-game losing streak in this series with a 99-85 triumph. Sunday’s victory at the Palace of Auburn Hills marked the Pistons’ first in this series since Dec. 23, 2008.
The loss also ended the Bulls’ two-year hold on the Central Division title, ceded to the Pacers, who were idle. The Pistons had lost 18 of their previous 21 games before Sunday.
Joakim Noah returned after missing eight games with plantar fasciitis in his right foot and finished with 13 points and seven rebounds in 22 minutes. Marco Belinelli went scoreless in 20 minutes in his return from missing seven games to an abdominal strain, which he aggravated in the fourth quarter when Rodney Stuckey smashed into him.
With Luol Deng out to a sore right hip, the night proved yet again how precarious the Bulls’ seeding fortunes can be. They remained in fifth place but now sit just one game ahead of the sixth-place Hawks with six games remaining.
Noah blocked a shot on the game’s first possession and looked active at times, winded at others. Thibodeau said before the game that Noah and Belinelli would be limited initially in their playing time.
“That’s why we gave him the extended rest, just to make sure it was cleared up as best we can at this particular time of the year,” Thibodeau said of Noah’s eight-game absence. “He’s gotten a lot of treatment. We’ll see where it goes from there.”
The Bulls, using their 13th different starting lineup, led by 11 in the first quarter but were doomed by poor defense that allowed 53.4 percent shooting and poor rebounding. Brandon Knight’s 20 points led six Pistons in double figures.
Carlos Boozer’s 21 points and 10 rebounds led the Bulls.