(With apologies to Antonio Tarver...)
Well like I said in the game preview, Rip Hamilton and the Pistons do likely have an excuse: This game didn't mean as much to them. They have the first seed pretty much locked up and the Bulls needed this win to get to 1/2 game behind the Cavs. So if this was a statement game, the statement was "the Bulls can beat and in fact blow out the Pistons".
But we knew that already. In their 4 games this season the point differentials for the Bulls were +17, -2, +2, and now +18. If the Pistons fans were as emotionally fragile as we are (and really, why wouldn't they be? They're sports fans after all) they'd say the Bulls have the Pistons number. That they should be scared of a potential second round matchup with them. Whether the actual team is scared or not is another matter.
What this game did show us is that the Bulls can not only beat the Pistons, but on the road and shorthanded: Ben Wallace was out (not to mention Nocioni and Griffin), Tyrus Thomas was limited with a sickness of his own (and not the good kind of 'sickness' the kids today are always talking about, the kind he did display on some dunks tonight), and Ben Gordon was a complete non-factor (11min, 0-2, 3TO, 4PF). The Bulls wound up surviving the first half with a great performance by Kirk Hinrich, who was then joined by Deng and Tyrus to a blowout of a 3rd quarter (32-16).
With the aforementioned absences it was PJ Brown and Thabo Sefolosha who filled in fantastically tonight, playing over 40 minutes each. Brown was 5-8 from the field and was the anchor defensively (Pistons scored 35 points in the second half) as the full-time center. Thabo started in a small starting lineup (with Brown, Deng, Hinrich and Gordon) and exploited the speed mismatch early.
The blowout would've been uneventful if not for some evidence that the Bulls are finally getting to the Pistons. Rip Hamilton gave a cheap shot (not vicious by any standard, but it was cheap) to Tyrus Thomas and then jawed his way towards two technicals. (Tyrus got ejected as well, perhaps for jawing back...although Rip was clearly the aggressor in that department.) The chippiness started with aggressive ball-denial on defense, something the Bulls do well and was clearly working tonight.
So perhaps that's the statement of the game: with Tyrus Thomas and Rip Hamilton symbolizing each of their teams. Tyrus as the young upstart using his speed, athleticism and defense to gain an edge. Rip being the proud veteran who didn't appreciate and wouldn't accept what the youngster was bringing. Perhaps he (and the Pistons) don't quite fear the Bulls yet, but damned if they're not frustrated. As 'statements' go, that's not a bad one to take away from tonight.