The Detroit Pistons have not made the playoffs in seven years. The Chicago Bulls haven’t missed the playoffs in eight years. When they met Saturday night, it sure looked like a playoff game.
Reggie Jackson scored 22 points and Tobias Harris added 21, leading the visiting Pistons to a hard-fought 94-90 victory over the Bulls, who were dealt a serious blow to their postseason hopes.
“A lot of guys knew how important this game was and wanted to win it,” Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy said. “They just hung in there and kept fighting.”
Marcus Morris added 16 points for the Pistons (41-36), who solidified their playoff position with their seventh win in their last nine games. Currently seventh in the Eastern Conference, Detroit has not made the postseason since 2009.
“We’ve shown that we can play in tough games,” Jackson said. “We will find out what we are made of. We found we are tough-minded tonight.”
Jimmy Butler had a monster game with 28 points and career highs of 17 rebounds and 12 assists for the Bulls (38-38), who are ninth in the East, two games behind eighth-place Indiana with just four games remaining. The top eight teams make the playoffs, and Chicago has not missed the postseason since 2008.
“We are well aware of our situation,” said Spanish star Pau Gasol of the Bulls. “The math is probably against us at this point.”
Neither team led by more than seven points. There were 13 ties and 15 lead changes. Players on both teams played to the point of exhaustion.
“If you go back and watch film of that game, you will see on every free throw eight of the 10 guys holding their shorts,” Van Gundy said. “Jimmy Butler was exhausted from having to do so much and play so many minutes. He’s running on fumes. Professional athletes on both sides, very competitive.”
Butler notched his first career triple-double. With Derrick Rose out with an injured elbow, Butler ran the offense and scored 14 of Chicago’s last 16 points.
“He had an unbelievable night,” Van Gundy said. “Career high in rebounds, career high in assists, first triple-double, and we survived it.”
Two free throws by Butler pulled the Bulls within 84-83 with 2:09 to play. But Jackson answered with a jump shot, Harris put back a miss by Jackson and Morris sank two free throws to extend the advantage to 90-83 with 43 seconds to go.
Butler drilled a three-pointer and added two free throws after an offensive foul by Jackson to make it 90-88 with 38 seconds left. He appeared to draw another offensive foul on Jackson but a replay review ruled it a blocking foul.
“Jimmy gave up his body to make up that play,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “Unfortunately for an inch or two, the call didn’t go our way.”
Jackson made two free throws, then added two more to seal the win. Andre Drummond had 11 points and 11 rebounds for Detroit, which made 10-of-20 three-pointers.
Gasol had 16 points and 14 boards for Chicago, which also was without forward Taj Gibson (personal reasons).
“We need to keep fighting,” Hoiberg said.
San Antonio Spurs 102, Toronto Raptors 95: Kawhi Leonard scored a career-high 33 points and LaMarcus Aldridge added 31 and 15 rebounds as the Spurs (64-12) set a franchise record for wins. San Antonio improved to a league-best 39-0 at home with its 48th straight home win dating to last season. Rookie Norman Powell scored 17 points to lead the Raptors, who rested All-Star guards Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan.
Indiana Pacers 115, Philadelphia 76ers 102: C.J. Miles scored 25 points for the visiting Pacers, who actually had to rally in the fourth quarter against the NBA’s worst team to remain two games ahead of Chicago. The 76ers (9-68) have lost 13 in a row.
Portland Trail Blazers 110, Miami Heat 93: C.J. McCollum made six three-pointers and scored 24 points for the Trail Blazers, who notched their seventh straight home win. All-Star guard Dwyane Wade sat out his second straight game with a back injury for the Heat, who clinched a playoff berth when Chicago lost.
Sacramento Kings 115, Denver Nuggets 106: Rudy Gay scored 25 points for the visiting Kings, who rested All-Star DeMarcus Cousins and Rajon Rondo. France’s Joffrey Lauvergne scored 15 points for the Nuggets.
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