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Peter Griffith

(Brent Schwert)

All of a sudden there is a glimmer of hope in the Windy City. Tuesday night the Chicago Bulls pulled off an improbable 16-point win in the NBA Eastern Conference semifinals to force a game six in a series the Detroit Pistons seemed to have well in hand.
The series shifts to Chicago now for game six, and if necessary will finish in Detroit. But make no mistake now: momentum has made its way across the state of Michigan and its namesake great lake and is firmly entrenched at 1901 West Madison Street.
As Chicago Tribune columnist Mike Downey so eloquently put it: The Bulls now lead the series two games to three.
So what happened? After the first two games in which Chicago lost by a combined 47 points, the Bulls’ ability to beat Detroit for a quarter seemed in doubt, let alone beat them in two games.
And most will remember game three as Detroit further proved their superiority with a 19-point comeback victory. But even in game three, the Bulls looked better. Sure, blowing a 19-point lead is disgraceful, but you have to keep in mind how important it was to get up by 19 points in the first place.
It seemed like while they couldn’t put the nail in the coffin, the young Bulls had at least figured out which of the Pistons buttons they could push. The winds of momentum were shifting, however slowly.
But the real indicator that the Bulls had the mo’ on their side was in the middle of the fourth quarter in game four. The Bulls had staked themselves a 21-point lead going into the quarter, but after game three that looked decidedly less secure than most 20 plus point leads do.
Indeed, Detroit opened up the final stanza with a 7-0 run and had whittled Chicago’s lead down to ten by the midpoint of the quarter. It looked like the Bulls simply didn’t have the firepower to stay with the Pistons when they were on top of their game.
Then, seemingly out of nowhere, Kirk Hinrich stole the ball from Rasheed Wallace, ran the length of the floor and dished it to Tyrus Thomas for a huge two-handed dunk. And the Palace at Auburn Hills went silent. All of a sudden the monkey was off Chicago’s back.
They weathered with seeming ease several more Detroit pushes late in game four. They dominated the Pistons in game five in Detroit, and they shot more than 70 percent in the first half (that’s hard to do in a gym, alone). And they go into game six for the first time as the favorites.
Now, are the Pistons out of it? Not by a long shot. But, all of a sudden they have to work against the tide of momentum, which is something they haven’t done all playoffs.