for this game

Shorthanded Pistons visit Bulls

Mar 24, 2009 - 4:28 AM By Brett Huston Stats Writer

Detroit (34-35) at Chicago (33-38), 8:00 p.m. EDT

CHICAGO (AP) -- Home games dominate the Chicago Bulls' schedule for the final three weeks of the regular season. If they plan on making the playoffs, they'll need to continue their strong play at the United Center.

Currently the Eastern Conference's No. 8 seed, the Bulls will hope to secure a spot by playing eight of their final 11 games at home, a stretch that starts Tuesday night against the short-handed Detroit Pistons.

Chicago has won seven of eight at home to jump into playoff position in the East, with the lone loss coming Saturday against the West-leading Los Angeles Lakers.

The Bulls led by 14 at halftime, but let the lead slip away in the fourth en route to a 117-109 defeat.

Chicago's first chance to bounce back came Monday at woeful Washington, and it nearly lost another double-digit lead. This time the Bulls led 88-77 with 6:09 left in the fourth quarter, but had to hold on for a 101-99 victory that pulled them 1 1/2 games ahead of ninth-place Charlotte.

"Of course there's a concern, but the biggest concern is winning and losing," Chicago coach Vinny Del Negro said. "That's what it comes down to. We made enough plays today to win. We were fortunate a little bit at the end, but we got the job done."

A favorable schedule down the stretch should help the Bulls. Only two of their final 11 opponents have winning records, and both of those games are at home.

Just two games ahead of Chicago in seventh place are the Pistons, who have gone 7-14 since February 8 to leave open the possibility that they'll miss the playoffs for the first time since 2001.

Some of Detroit's struggles are due to its rash of injuries. Allen Iverson (back) has missed the past 13 games, Rasheed Wallace (calf) has missed seven straight and Richard Hamilton (groin) has sat out the last four.

Rodney Stuckey had missed the Pistons' 108-90 win over the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday with flu-like symptoms, but he returned Sunday and scored 24 against visiting Miami. That wasn't enough, though, as Dwyane Wade scored 39 points in the Heat's 101-96 comeback victory.

Detroit has lost four of its last five, all by five points or fewer.

"This is four games we've given away at the end," said Arron Afflalo, who had 13 points starting in the guard spot normally shared by Iverson and Hamilton. "We've got to find a way to pull these out."

Afflalo will likely start again Tuesday with Hamilton doubtful, but Stuckey may be the key for Detroit. The second-year guard had a career-high 40 points in the Pistons' 104-98 home win over the Bulls on December 23, but was held to 16 while shooting 6-of-16 on February 20 in a 107-102 loss at Chicago - Detroit's fifth straight defeat in the Windy City.

In that contest, the Bulls blew a lead but also staged a major comeback. They led by eight after the first quarter but were down 14 after three, shortly before Derrick Rose took over. The top overall pick in the 2008 NBA draft had nine of his 23 points in the game's final four minutes, leading Chicago to a 107-102 win.

The Bulls are 16-8 when Rose scores more than 20 points.

Detroit's bigger concern may be John Salmons. The veteran swingman, acquired from Sacramento last month, has averaged 22.3 points in 11 games since Del Negro inserted him into Chicago's starting lineup.

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