Defense helps the Chicago Bulls beat Pistons, stay alive

May 9, 2021; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Chicago Bulls guard Zach LaVine (8) gives five to a teammate as he walks to the bench during the second quarter against the Detroit Pistons at Little Caesars Arena. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Nikola Vucevic recorded a double-double with 29 points and 16 rebounds, Zach LaVine added a game-high 30 points Sunday night as the Chicago Bulls led for all but the opening few seconds in posting a 108-96 victory over the host Detroit Pistons.

Chicago (29-39) used a strong defensive effort to keep alive its slim prospects of making the Eastern Conference play-in tournament, moving to 2.5 games behind Indiana with four games left in the Bulls regular season.

The Bulls held Detroit (20-49) — playing without season leading scorer Jerami Grant on the second leg of a weekend back-to-back — to just 39 first-half points and 36-of-78 shooting from the floor for the game.

Its defensive performance powered Chicago to a dominant lead by the second quarter, which grew to as many as 21 points before intermission.

Sunday marked the third consecutive game in which the Bulls held their opponent to fewer than 100 points; all three were Chicago wins, matching the team’s longest winning streak of the season.

The Pistons tried to battle back in the second half, cutting the deficit to 12 points in the late third quarter and 10 in the final minute.

In addition to his game-high in scoring, LaVine had six assists. Coby White added 21 points, which included 5-of-11 shooting from beyond the 3-point line.

Lauri Markkanen contributed to Chicago’s defensive showing by coming off the bench to record three steals and seven rebounds.

Killian Hayes registered career highs of 21 points and seven rebounds to go with his game-high eight assists for Detroit, but also committed seven of the Pistons’ 13 turnovers. His fellow rookies Saddiq Bey (20 points) and Isaiah Stewart (19 points) shot 5-of-10 and 3-of-7 from beyond the 3-point arc.

A fourth Detroit rookie, Saben Lee, chipped in 13 points.

In addition to the absence of Grant, Detroit was also without Hamidou Diallo (health and safety protocols); Wayne Ellington (calves); Cory Joseph (ankle); Josh Jackson (tooth); and Mason Plumlee (scheduled rest).

–Field Level Media