NBA

Pistons-Bulls Preview

It was just a few days ago that the Chicago Bulls were facing a growing deficit in the Eastern Conference playoff race.

They have sliced into that in each of their past two games but might be short-handed for their attempt to move back into the eighth spot Saturday night. To accomplish that goal, they would have to beat the Detroit Pistons while getting some help.

Chicago dropped 2 1/2 games behind Detroit with nine remaining after its fourth consecutive loss Monday, 102-100 against visiting Atlanta. The Bulls (38-37) are now chasing Indiana following their back-to-back wins and the Pacers' two straight defeats, including a 98-96 home loss to Chicago on Tuesday.

The Bulls then posted a 103-100 victory in Houston on Thursday with Taj Gibson sidelined and Derrick Rose missing for the second half. Nikola Mirotic scored 28 points off the bench for the second straight game and has gone 12 of 23 from 3-point range in that stretch.

"I think the biggest thing is those guys went out there and played together. That's a huge thing. We got hit with adversity in both games, got down, but found a way to stick together," coach Fred Hoiberg said. "What's been a struggle with this team is fighting through adversity and we did it these past couple of games."

Gibson (bruised rib) and Rose (bruised left elbow) are considered doubtful for Saturday.

If the duo sits out, it could make it challenging for Chicago to force a split of its four-game season series against Detroit (40-36). If the Bulls can pull that off, they could move into eighth if the Pacers lose again Saturday.

Indiana, though, is visiting league-worst Philadelphia, which has dropped 24 of its last 25 games.

The Pistons could also use a surprising win from the 76ers as they're only one-half game ahead of the Pacers for seventh in the East. Detroit lost 98-89 to Dallas on Friday to finish 6-3 on its nine-game homestand.

With a season-high 31 points, Marcus Morris was the only Pistons player with more than 15, and he also grabbed 12 rebounds. Detroit will play four of its final six away from home, beginning with a three-game trip.

"Now we are going to have to go on the road and beat some good teams if we want to get in," coach Stan Van Gundy said. "We needed this game."

The Pistons, 2-4 on the road last month, played one of the league's most memorable games this season in their most recent trip to Chicago on Dec. 18. They outlasted the Bulls 147-144 in four overtimes for only their second win in the last 17 visits.

Chicago avenged that defeat with a 111-101 victory at Detroit on Jan. 18, only its second in the last six overall meetings. Pau Gasol scored a season-high 31 points and has a combined 61 in his past two matchups.

Jimmy Butler was held to 16 points after tallying 43 in the game at the United Center.

Morris is averaging 21.3 points on 52.1 percent shooting this season against Chicago, his best scoring mark versus any East opponent. Andre Drummond had a career-high 33 in the win in Chicago, and Reggie Jackson had 31.

More NBA