Bench Leads Bulls Past Pistons

By K.C. Johnson, Tribune reporter

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — There are different kinds of toughness.

There is mental toughness, which the Bulls needed to flush Monday’s debacle in Brooklyn out of their focus. And there is physical toughness, which the Bulls displayed in myriad ways during Wednesday’s 105-94 victory over the Pistons Wednesday night at the Palace of Auburn Hills.

The Pistons lead the NBA in offensive rebounding, averaging 14.5 per game. So all the Bulls did is respond to Tom Thibodeau’s challenge — “Really, it’s just a toughness factor when the ball is up on the board,” he said — and dominate the glass. They held the Pistons to eight offensive rebounds and enjoyed a 43-32 rebounding advantage.

Jimmy Butler displayed fortitude by grinding out 46 minutes, finishing with 18 points and 12 rebounds and coming up with a fourth-quarter steal and breakaway dunk in the game-turning run.

And Joakim Noah showed his grit — again — by rebounding from his six-turnover night against the Nets with his second triple-double in three games. Entering the fourth quarter with just two points, Noah finished with 10 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists for his third triple-double this season and sixth of his career.

Noah is now the first center to record three triple-doubles with assists in the same season since David Robinson in 1993-94.

D.J. Augustin scored 26 points and Taj Gibson added 22 to lead a decisive bench scoring edge of 50-12.

The Bulls trailed by 12 early and led just 71-70 entering the fourth before pulling away with a dominant effort. Augustin hit a 3-pointer. Noah powered through a foul for a dunk and a primal scream. And Mike Dunleavy dropped home a running, lefty hook that didn’t get stuck in the peach basket.

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