Vying for spot in play-in, Bulls face struggling Pistons

The Chicago Bulls didn’t envision themselves jockeying for position in the Eastern Conference play-in tournament.

Of course, the Bulls didn’t foresee encountering so many injuries, either.

Still, that’s where Chicago stands entering Tuesday’s home game against the Detroit Pistons. After closing out a tight victory in New Orleans on Sunday, the Bulls will try to earn consecutive wins for the second time this month.

“It’s always easy when you have any type of adversity to give in, to pack it in, whine, complain,” Bulls leading scorer DeMar DeRozan said. “You don’t hear that from (any) of us. We try to figure it out the best way we can every single day.”

With season-ending injuries to Zach LaVine and Patrick Williams throwing the rotation in directions the team hardly anticipated before the season, Chicago is working to build depth for the stretch run.

Second-year player Dalen Terry and rookie Julian Phillips played in crunch time Sunday, as the Bulls won 114-106.

“The way I’ve always approached the game is, I’m not afraid of the moment,” Terry said. “I know Julian is the same way. Us both being young guys and seeing each other through the early part of our careers, we both were talking constantly about that.

“Me and him talk about our thoughts every single day, about what’s here in front of us and how we’ve got to do better, do what it takes to sustain our rotation minutes.”

Detroit, which has won an NBA-low eight games, is coming off Monday’s 113-111 road loss to the New York Knicks.

It was the Pistons’ closest margin of defeat during their current six-game skid. Quentin Grimes scored a basket with 37 seconds to go, putting Detroit ahead 111-110, but the Pistons were unable to hold on.

A scrambling sequence near the end of the game saw Jalen Brunson find Josh Hart for the go-ahead basket with 2.8 seconds left. The Knicks got possession after Ausar Thompson lost the ball following a collision with New York’s Donte DiVincenzo along the sideline in a play in which no foul was called.

“That’s an abomination,” Pistons coach Monty Williams said. “You cannot miss that in an NBA game. Period. And I’m tired of talking about it. I’m tired of our guys asking me, ‘What more can we do, Coach?'”

Cade Cunningham (32 points) and Jalen Duren (11 points, 16 rebounds) kept the Pistons close.

The Bulls and Pistons have split the first two meetings of the season, with each team winning by double digits on its home floor.

Detroit’s 118-102 win on Oct. 28 put the team above .500 for the only time this season. The Pistons lost the first of their NBA-record-tying 28 straight games two nights later.

Chicago has won 16 of 17 against Detroit. DeRozan has scored at least 20 points in eight of his past 10 games versus the Pistons.

The teams are set to conclude the season series on April 11 in Detroit.