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NBA - No happy returns for Noah, Belinelli


PhilBoxing.com




CHICAGO -- Joakim Noah and Marco Belinelli returned to active play Sunday night, but even with their reinforcement, the Chicago Bulls fell to the Detroit Pistons, 99-85, at the Palace of Auburn Hills.

The defeat snapped the Bulls' 18-game dominance over the Pistons, who last lost to Chicago -- 95-94 -- on March 31 at the United Center.

But there was no such magic this time as Chicago, after taking a 26-23 first quarter lead, fell behind 50-46 at halftime. Shooting poorly throughout the rest of the second half, the Bulls trailed by as many as a 16 in the fourth quarter.

Carlos Boozer led all scorers with 21 points and 10 rebounds, but the Bulls made only 33 of 73 field goals, including just three of 15 from beyond the arc. Noah returned from a plantar fasciitis injury and scored 13 points in 21 minutes. Belinelli, who had been sidelined by an abdominal strain, tallied two assists but was held scoreless in 20 minutes.

"You can't miss the amount of time they've missed and not show it, you know, and unfortunately the games keep coming and they came quick and we've got to be ready," Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau told Comcast Sports Chicago during his post-game press conference.

Luol Deng, who had 28 and nine rebounds against Detroit on March 31, played only six minutes and his versatility on both ends of the floor was sorely missed.

"I thought defensively (we were) very poor. The one thing about Luol is that he gives you that edge, and when he's out we need people to step up and give us that edge, we've got t get back, and we've got to get it back quick," Thibodeau stressed.

Six Pistons scored in double figures with Brandon Knight leading the way with 20 points and five assists. Center Jonas Jerebko added 17 and nine rebounds while Rodney Stuckey had 14. Charlie Villanueva and Greg Monroe tallied 12 and 11 respectively.

The Bulls dropped to 42-34 in the standings, two games behind the Brooklyn Nets for the No.4 seed in the NBA playoffs which kicks off on April 20. With six games left in the schedule the Bulls still have a decent shot at grabbing the No.4 spot. But with the Atlanta Hawks only behind by a game, the Bulls could also slip down to the No.6 spot.

Ranked 12th in the Eastern Conference, the 26-52 Pistons are already eliminated from the playoffs race. (KB)

Photo: Rodney Stuckey tries to get through a brick wall of Bulls Carlos Boozer and Kirk Hinrich.


Click here to view a list of other articles written by Katrina Barnett.


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