AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — If the Detroit Pistons were ever going to end their four-year losing streak to the Chicago Bulls, Friday was the night.
After all, how often will the Pistons ever jump out to a 17-point lead on the Bulls, or score 104 points against one of the NBA’s toughest defenses?
It still wasn’t enough. For the seventh time this season, the Pistons blew a double-digit lead, letting Joakim Noah and the Bulls extend their personal winning streak to 16 games over the Pistons with a 108-104 victory.
“At this point, I think it is getting into our minds,” Tayshaun Prince said. “When you blow a couple leads, it is just something that happens. But when you keep doing it, it is something that you start thinking about and waiting to happen.
“We keep playing good offense and getting out to leads, but we also keep letting down on the defensive end and giving teams a chance to get back into the game.
“That’s something we have to stop.”
Prince was more disgusted with the defense after his team put up a rare triple-digit score against Chicago.
“In this streak, they’ve been holding us to around 80 points a game, and there have been a few in the 70s,” he said. “Tonight, we get 104 and we still lose. That makes this even worse. As soon as they got a little bit of offense going in the second quarter, our defense just stopped making plays. The few times we did get stops, Joakim Noah gave them second chances.”
Noah had the game of his life, putting up career highs in points (30) and rebounds (23). He also added six assists — making his just the second player in the last 10 years to have a 30/23/6 game or better. Kevin Garnett had 33/25/6 for the Timberwolves against Sacramento on Dec. 5, 2003.
Garnett, though, had two offensive rebounds, while Noah had 10 to reach a Dennis Rodman triple-double: 30 points, 10 offensive rebounds and 13 defensive rebounds.
“It’s just crazy to end up with those kind of numbers,” Noah said. “It feels great to play that well. I missed a bunch of tips, and some arenas don’t count those as rebounds. I’m happy they counted them tonight.”
Noah played 43 minutes, matched up against either Andre Drummond or Greg Monroe. Detroit’s post duo totaled 48 minutes, but never played at the same time.
“Noah had a double-double in both halves, and it was entirely due to effort,” Pistons coach Lawrence Frank said. “He ended up with 30 and 23, and the Bulls didn’t run a single play for him. That was just hard work.”
Frank was asked repeatedly about not putting Monroe and Drummond on the floor together, especially against a team with two traditional post players like Noah and Carlos Boozer.
“Our second unit was giving good flow and good rhythm, and we decided to go with that,” Frank said. “It came down to who was playing well, and who was struggling a little.”
Frank didn’t mention Monroe by name, but Detroit’s starting center is only averaging 10.8 points in Detroit’s last six games.
“I probably had one bad game in that stretch, and that one is on me,” Monroe said. “In a lot of those games, though, I haven’t been in the same position that I was earlier. In the good games I’ve had, or what you think are good games, I’ve been in a different position than I have been in the last few.”
Monroe didn’t elaborate on what he hasn’t been able to do, but he wasn’t happy with Detroit’s performance as a whole on Friday. The Pistons gave up 58 points in the paint while scoring only 38.
“That’s something we take pride in as a team,” he said. “We came into this game going we had to control Joakim Noah, and we didn’t do that.”
With Monroe struggling, Frank probably only had one chance at stopping Noah. Unfortunately for him, they couldn’t activate Ben Wallace from the retired list. Wallace, who got a standing ovation when he was shown in a courtside seat during a first-half timeout, looked to be in the best shape of his life. Even at age of 38, it is hard to imagine Noah having a 30/20 game against him.
Against Monroe and Drummond, the Pistons were lucky it wasn’t even worse.