HAWL IN: A Palace of nightmares that became one of dreams for the Bulls

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Basketball: NBA Playoffs: Chicago Bulls Michael Jordan (23) in action vs Detroit Pistons at The Palace. Game 4.
Auburn Hills, MI 5/27/1991
CREDIT: Manny Millan (Photo by Manny Millan /Sports Illustrated/Getty Images)
(Set Number: X41482 )

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AUBURN HILLS, Mich. - A place that produced so much noise for the franchise ended quietly on Monday night.

A Bulls team that's fighting for one of the last playoff spots in the Eastern Conference lost to a Pistons squad looking to do the same 109-95. There were just over 16-thousand people in the building - well short of the 24,276 capacity.

It's kind of sad that this was the end of play for Chicago's NBA franchise at the venue after years of entertaining games. Next year the Pistons will move back to downtown Detroit to play their games at the new Little Caesars Arena.

While their leaving comes with little fanfare outside of Michigan, Bulls fans need to remember their team's legacy at the arena in Auburn Hills. It was a place of nightmares that actually helped many of the Bulls' dreams come true.

While things started well enough in the venue, a Bulls' victory in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals in 1989 thanks to Michael Jordan's 32 points, it would be a place where the team would have to learn some hard lessons.

A still developing squad was bullying mentally and physically by the "Bad Boys" of Detroit who went onto win the last two games they'd play at The Palace in that East Finals. On top of that, they beat the Bulls the first five times the face them in the regular season in the venue.

Never was that more evident than in the 1990 Eastern Conference Finals, when Detroit's home floor turned into a classroom for the team.

In that series, the Bulls lost four games at the Palace, never staying closer than nine points in any of those contests.

The most famous was the finale, Game 7 on June 3rd. With Scottie Pippen dealing with his now infamous migraine headache, the Bulls were only competitive for a quarter as the Pistons rolled to a 19-point victory.

In the Palace the Bulls learned two things: They were good but not good enough. Mindset and muscle were enough to offset the team's offensive firepower, proven over the course of six-straight playoff defeats in the building.

Jordan famously spent $40,000 on new weight lifting equipment in his house that offseason to train for the rigors of the postseason - specifically a likely rematch with the Pistons the next year.


The Bulls showed signs of their maturation the next year when the finally won a regular season game in The Palace after three years of failing to do so on February 7, 1991.

It really did the trick in the Eastern Conference Finals nearly four months later when a Bulls team, hardened by their experience in Auburn Hills, finally had the strength to take down their foe.

In fitting fashion, the Bulls won Game 3 and 4 of the series to finish off a sweep while giving the franchise their first Eastern Conference championship. Who cares if the majority of the Pistons starters left early without shaking their hands, the Bulls had taken the elusive step and it opened the doors for the most successful era of the franchise.

Six championships would follow in the next eight years. Jordan would grow into the game's greatest player. All of these were shaped by a couple of nightmarish lessons learned in the classroom that was The Palace.

Hence it was a shame for the era to end so quietly on Monday. Bill Laimbeer and Rick Mahorn were in the crowd to share some of their memories of the rivalry that reached its zenith in the building.

They're making sure Pistons fans don't forget all that happened in the building. Bulls fans shouldn't either, even if the ending was much quieter than the past.


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