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Bulls play it safe in 14th straight victory over Pistons

AustDaye fouls Luol Deng who had 20 points first half Friday United Center. | Scott Stewart~Sun-Times

Austin Daye fouls Luol Deng, who had 20 points, in the first half Friday at the United Center. | Scott Stewart~Sun-Times

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Updated: May 1, 2012 8:31AM



Rip Hamilton was ready to play but didn’t Friday night. That might have been the most redeeming quality of the Bulls’ ugly 83-71 victory over the Detroit Pistons at the United Center.

With less than a month to go in an NBA season plagued by injuries and reinjuries, the Bulls and coach Tom Thibodeau aren’t going to take any unnecessary risks by rushing injured players into the lineup just because they feel good. Not anymore, anyway.

‘‘We’re playing it safe,’’ Thibodeau said. ‘‘He’s real close. I just thought another day would be good. We’ve been patient this long. I just want to make sure it’s the right time.’’

So Hamilton, who has missed 13 games while recovering from a bruised shoulder, didn’t get to play against his former team. And Derrick Rose, who missed his ninth consecutive game with a groin injury, probably won’t play against the Western Conference-leading Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday in a nationally televised showdown.

‘‘It would hurt me not to play that game,’’ Rose said.

But it could hurt even more if he does. Hamilton has come back from injuries four times and has aggravated the injury or suffered a new one each time. He has yet to play more than five consecutive games. But it seems like Thibodeau has learned his lesson. When the Bulls played the Pistons in Detroit in January, Hamilton had missed the previous two games with a groin injury. He played 32 minutes but missed the next eight games.

‘‘It was more my call than his,’’ Thibodeau said. ‘‘He’s doing great. He wants to play. I talked to him before the game. I wasn’t quite comfortable with him yet. I told him we’re going to hold him another day. We’ll see where he is [Saturday].’’

With Rose and Hamilton out, the Bulls (42-11) muddled their way to an uninspiring victory over the struggling Pistons (18-33). Luol Deng (20 points, nine rebounds), Joakim Noah (19 points on 7-for-11 shooting, 12 rebounds) and Carlos Boozer (13 points, 11 rebounds) led the Bulls. Guards Ronnie Brewer (2-for-6), C.J. Watson (3-for-11), John Lucas (1-for-7) and Kyle Korver (1-for-7) combined to shoot 7-for-31 from the field.

‘‘We found a way,’’ Noah said. ‘‘It wasn’t a pretty game, but we found a way to get another win. That’s the only thing that matters right now.’’

After the Pistons made eight of their first 10 shots to take an 18-10 lead with 5:40 left in the first quarter, the Bulls resorted to two old standbys — defense and rebounding — to improve to 14-5 without Rose.

The Bulls led 44-35 at halftime. Behind forward Tayshaun Prince (14 points) and guard Brandon Knight (16 points), the Pistons closed the deficit to 75-71 with 4:48 left. But Watson made two free throws, and Boozer scored off a rebound by Noah to finally put the Pistons away. The Bulls extended their winning streak against the Pistons to 14.

The Bulls outrebounded the Pistons 53-37 and held Detroit to 10 points in the second and fourth quarters.

‘‘Our rebounding has been key for us, and our defense has been up and down,’’ Deng said. ‘‘When our defense is on, we’re definitely way better as a team. But our rebounding has won us a lot of games and kept us in a lot of games.’’



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