The Bulls have won 18-straight against the Pistons, the most recent win coming on March 31, as the Bulls squeaked out a one-point win over the visiting Pistons behind 28 points from Luol Deng.
The Pistons will be out for revenge and nothing more on Sunday as these two teams prepare to square off for the final time during the 2012-13 season, as bragging rights and team bonding for next season appears to be the only silver lining to yet another disappointing Detroit season.
Not lost in that disappointment has been the play of Greg Monroe, Detroit's young big man who is leading the team in scoring and rebounding (16.0 and 9.6) during his third full NBA season.
Chicago is playing for much more, sitting at fifth place in the Eastern Conference—tied with the Atlanta Hawks in record but holding the tiebreaker in that battle. The Bulls are also just one game behind the Brooklyn Nets for fourth place heading into Saturday night's NBA action, an important battle to watch with first-round home court advantage on the line in the East.
The Bulls will look to make it 19-straight wins against the Pistons on Sunday night in Michigan, but you can never discount a team like Detroit who has nothing left to lose—especially with the rash of injuries that continues to plague Chicago's deep playoffs hopes in 2013.
Check out what you should watch for during this matchup on Sunday evening.
When: Sunday, Apr. 7, at 7:30 p.m. ET
Where: Palace of Auburn Hills; Auburn Hills, Mich.
Records: Chicago (42-33, 20-17 road), Detroit (25-51, 15-23 home)
TV: Comcast SportsNet (CSN Chicago), Fox Sports (FS Detroit)
Live Stream: NBA League Pass
Injury Report (via ESPN.com)
SG Marco Belinelli — Abdominal Strain, Day-to-Day
C Joakim Noah — Plantar Fasciitis, Day-to-Day
PG Derrick Rose — Knee, Out
PF Taj Gibson — Knee, Out
SF Corey Maggette — Nose, Day-to-Day
PG Brandon Knight — Multiple Injuries, Day-to-Day
PG Jose Calderon — Triceps, Day-to-Day
PG Will Bynum — Hand, Questionable
Projected Starting Lineups
PG - Kirk Hinrich (7.3 ppg)
SG - Jimmy Butler (8.0 ppg)
SF - Luol Deng (16.7 ppg)
PF - Carlos Boozer (16.0 ppg)
C - Nazr Mohammed (2.2 ppg)
PG - Jose Calderon (11.9 ppg)
SG - Brandon Knight (13.2 ppg)
SF - Kyle Singler (8.8 ppg)
PF - Greg Monroe (16.0 ppg)
C - Andre Drummond (7.4 ppg)
Derrick Rose Injury Update
As reported by Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times, Tom Thibodeau isn't ruling out a potential Rose return to the court before the end of the regular season.
While Rose has been cleared to play since early March, it's clear he doesn't feel confident enough that his surgically-repaired knee is ready for the ebbs and flows of the NBA hardwood.
That being said, Thibodeau threw some more ambiguity into the mix about his star PG's potential return on Thursday, claiming that Rose is "close" to being ready to return to the Bulls lineup but maintaining that no one in the organization is going to push a return:
But when we did scrimmage I thought he looked very good. But the most important thing is him being comfortable, so we’ve got to let him work through it...It’s on him, and only he knows...So we have to trust him. And as I’ve said many times, I trust him implicitly, and he’ll know when he’s ready and when he is he’ll go.
Per the usual with the Chicago storylines, we'll monitor Rose's status until he's back on the court for good.
The Bulls continue to win games with their depleted lineup.
Chicago managed to pull off yet another close win against the Orlando Magic on Friday night, squeezing out a one-point win at home despite only seven guys being in coach Thib's rotation. Joakim Noah, Marco Belinelli and Taj Gibson continue to sit, while Nate Robinson and Vladimir Radmanovic are the only two guys that got any burn off the bench.
Injuries and a fast and furious start to the month in March have left plenty of health/stamina question marks for Chicago coming down the stretch of the regular season.
Who has been Chicago's MVP this season?
Heading to Detroit on Sunday will mark Chicago's sixth game in the last nine days, and it's not like the Bulls have been able to pull out any easy wins (or losses, for that matter) with their current grind-it-out style of play.
While the Bulls continue to get the job done late, close, low-scoring, defensive games can take a toll on any team—not to mention a team dealing with injuries to four key players. Although Detroit is also going to be in the latter half of a back-to-back on Sunday night, Chicago's penchant for playing close games could be on display yet again.
It hasn't hurt the Bulls yet, but pulling away early would be a nice change of pace for the embattled Bulls and allow Thib to use his bench while the players who consistently get a ton of court burn (Deng, Boozer) take a seat in the second half.
Carlos Boozer vs. Greg Monroe
In a battle of marquee scoring forwards, Carlos Boozer and Greg Monroe should be a nice individual showdown on Sunday night.
Both averaging 16.0 points per game for their respective teams, the duo are counted upon heavily to both be a scoring and rebounding presence for their teams' success.
Monroe has been stellar over his last three games, averaging 22 points per and shooting over 50 percent from the floor in each. That includes an 18-point game against the Bulls, in which he also filled up the stat sheet with 10 rebounds, four assists, two blocks and two steals.
Boozer, on the other hand, had a ho-hum game against the Pistons on March 31, scoring just 11 points in 22 minutes of action while Taj Gibson played a forward-high 30. With Gibson out against Detroit on Sunday, Boozer will have to step up yet again—he's already logged 35, 45 and 39 minutes in Chicago's last three games.
Boozer has been at the top of his craft for quite some time, while Monroe is just coming into his own as an All-Star to be. In a battle of veteran talent versus a young hot hand, this one-on-one battle could help turn the tide in either team's favor.
Conventional wisdom would be against the Bulls on Sunday.
Playing in their sixth game in nine days and having to travel to Detroit to boot, it's hard to picture the Bulls having the kind of defensive intensity that is now necessary to make up for their lack of offensive prowess.
The Bulls have also been largely unable to put together any kind of sustained winning streak this season, putting together several (five) three-game winning streaks to get to 42 wins on the season. Riding a two-game winning streak heading into Sunday's matchup with Detroit, history and injuries don't favor Chicago being able to take steps towards a strong-season closeout.
However, the Pistons are also dealing with a few minor cuts and bruises. Brandon Knight and Jose Calderon are both day-to-day right now on the injury report, and we'll see if both play as the Pistons prepare for the first game of a back-to-back against Minnesota on Saturday night.
There's a reason Detroit has lost 50 games this season, and it's not because it has been historically bad on just the road. Detroit has also been so-so at home, eight games below .500 in that category.
The Pistons are also going through one of the worst month stretches in the NBA right now, losers of 14 of their last 16 games. Coming off the Saturday night game with Minnesota and clearly struggling to find any kind of offensive threat beyond Knight, Monroe and Calderon, Detroit is in a bad way for this game.
Chicago needs the win more, just one game behind Brooklyn for home-court advantage and one game away from falling to the No. 6 seed. In yet another close thriller, Chicago pulls this one off.
Chicago 85, Detroit 80