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Sports

Hot-handed Bulls trim Pistons' lead

May 16th, 2007 12:39 am by LARRY LAGE



AUBURN HILLS, Mich. - Suddenly, it's a series.


Ben Gordon scored 28 points and the hot-shooting Chicago Bulls beat the Detroit Pistons 108-92 Tuesday night in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference semifinals, pulling to 3-2 in the series.


Detroit opened the second round with two routs and made a big comeback in the third game, leading some to predict it would end with a sweep - or in five games at the most.


Obviously, the Bulls had other plans.


"A lot of people were writing us off," Gordon said. "But we had a lot of confidence in ourselves and I think that showed in the last two games."


Game 6 is Thursday night in Chicago and if Game 7 is necessary, it would be Monday night back on the Pistons' home court.


The Bulls started the matchup Tuesday night with a sense of urgency and didn't let up in a game they never trailed.


Chicago only missed one of its first seven shots while holding Detroit to 3-of-9 shooting and each starter scored to help build a 14-6 lead.


The Bulls made 72.2 percent of their shots in the first half - falling just short of an NBA record.


"It's tough to shoot 70 percent with no one guarding you in an empty gym, much less doing it in that kind of pressure situation," Pistons coach Flip Saunders said. "Having a team shooting like that is demoralizing."


Despite the sensational shooting, Chicago led by just eight at halftime.


The Bulls then turned the game into a rout by outscoring Detroit 33-20 to take a 21-point lead into the fourth quarter.


Unlike the two previous games, the Pistons didn't rally at all and were frustrated against a team that looked much like the one that swept the defending NBA champion Miami Heat in the first round.


Midway through the fourth quarter, a sellout crowd gave up on a possible rally as the aisles filled with fans leaving and the Bulls leading 101-81.


"When the game's going on, I'm not sitting there admiring our shooting, but we obviously did a good job," Chicago coach Scott Skiles said. "We shot very well against Miami, and then for some reason, we couldn't knock anything down in the first two games here."


Gordon made shots early and often and had plenty of help.


"I made my first shot and I was in a good rhythm all night," said Gordon, who made 10 of 16 shots and missed only one of his six 3-pointers. "When I was open, I just let it go."


Luol Deng scored 20, Kirk Hinrich had 17 and P.J. Brown scored a playoff-high 15.


The Pistons, meanwhile, didn't have a one consistently effective player on offense and allowed the Bulls to do whatever they wanted at the other end of the court.


Chauncey Billups scored 17, Richard Hamilton had 16 points and Rasheed Wallace added 15, but the trio combined to shoot just 16-of-42.


The Pistons fell to 12-3 when they have a chance to win a series, with the rare losses coming in the last two games and in Game 7 of the 2005 NBA Finals against San Antonio.


Billups said it's fair to say Detroit relaxed after getting off to such a great start in the series.


"I can't say we did that intentionally, but it's human nature when you get that kind of a cushion to let up a little bit," Billups said. "Our team, as you know, is not that good with cushions.


"Unfortunately, we've done that time and time again and have had to go on the road to win," he added.


Detroit reserve Antonio McDyess scored 12, Tayshaun Prince had 11 and Chris Webber added nine points and eight rebounds. Tyrus Thomas gave the Bulls a lift off the bench with 10 points, six rebounds, five steals and a block. Reserve Chris Duhon scored eight points and made two of Chicago's 10 3-pointers. Chicago finished shooting 57 percent after coming close in the first half to the NBA record the Los Angeles Lakers set by making 74.2 percent of their shots against Seattle during the 1998 playoffs, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. The Bulls made more shots (26) in the first half and scored just 10 fewer points than they did in all of Game 1. They broke a franchise playoff record with just 23 field goals in the series opener, leading to a franchise postseason-low 69 points. In addition to struggling defensively, the Pistons got into trouble on offense by relying on one-on-one moves instead of the using teamwork that usually leads to success for them. Detroit also started to unravel because of the officiating, leading to Wallace getting called for a technical foul midway through the third quarter shortly after Billups was called for his fourth foul. "In both of the last two games, Chauncey has been in foul trouble, and that doesn't happen very often," Skiles said. "When it does, you better win the game." NOTES: In Game 4, Hinrich appeared to throw a left-handed jab that connected with Flip Murray's groin on a dunk. Murray said Monday he didn't think it was intentional, but he wasn't so sure after seeing the replay for the first time. "I asked him about it, and he said he didn't mean to do anything to me," Murray said after Game 5. Hinrich insisted it wasn't intentional. The NBA did not plan to take action against Hinrich. ... Faces in the crowd included Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Bob Seger, a Michigan native and resident. ... Chicago's Ben Wallace had six points, five rebounds, four assists and two blocks.

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