CHICAGO, MAY 27 -- The Detroit Pistons have such a margin for error that they believe any small change in their demeanor will force a return to order in their Eastern Conference final with the Chicago Bulls.

They maintain that with an adjustment here or there, they would have a 3-0 lead in this best-of-seven series, instead of the 2-1 advantage they own going into today's Game 4 (WUSA-TV-9 at 3 p.m.). That Michael Jordan's playing point guard is something that can be taken care of.

"We may have to make a major adjustment," guard Isiah Thomas said before the Pistons worked out at Chicago Stadium today. "I think we have the people who are knowledgeable enough to make that adjustment. I'm not going to tell you to put it in the newspaper {but} mostly our concentration is on defense. Mostly everything we do is on defense."

"One thing that we're very good at is learning," center Bill Laimbeer said. "If we had done a fundamental of boxing out, a fundamental of rotation, we would have won. That's just concentration and hard work, and that wasn't there for us."

That lapse gives the Bulls a chance to tie the series. If Chicago was an angry bunch in the last few days, the Bulls are much more confident now. Jordan's recent policy of not talking to the media continued after today's practice in suburban Deerfield.

Of course, if the Bulls come back to contest this series, the tactic will be viewed as a great psychological ploy. Jordan said Saturday that this was no tactic, though it has the effect of making Bulls like Horace Grant and Scottie Pippen explain themselves.

"Michael has given us the confidence in what we can do to beat this team," Grant said.

"I heard that I wasn't aggressive enough," Pippen said. "I just wanted to come out and get off to a good start so I could finish strong. We've been down before to good teams, and Detroit is one of them."

Before Saturday's game, the players weren't so sure of themselves. Jordan has been cordial to them, but he really hasn't explained his decision and no one has really asked. The Bulls did know, however, that they had to start beating Detroit around the basket.

"It was like we were self-destructing," forward Ed Nealy said.

"We don't give them as many hard fouls as they give us," Grant said. "I'm not saying we're afraid, but it seems like we're a little intimidated to get into a scuffle with them."

They responded with 21 offensive rebounds, outrebounding Detroit by 10. Though Bill Cartwright was not a factor offensively, on defense he used his body effectively against James Edwards. Since Edwards is the only real post-up player the Pistons have, when he's neutralized, Detroit is almost completely a perimeter-shooting team in its half-court offense.

Though the Bulls haven't lost at home in two months, the Pistons know that even with a loss Monday they'll have two of the last three games in Detroit. That's why Thomas called the game "crucial, but not critical."

Game 4 will ride on how the Pistons adjust to Jordan's play at point guard. When he's at the point, he handles the ball from the top of the offense instead of operating on the wings. That adjustment allowed him to beat Detroit's double-teaming for 47 points Saturday.

The Pistons couldn't bring weak-side help to the ball fast enough, and looked confused on defense, a rarity for a team that is so good at shutting down the opposition.

"It took us awhile to figure out what they were doing," Laimbeer said.

Last season, when Jordan played point guard throughout the playoffs, the Pistons said they wanted him to think like a point guard -- pass first, shoot second. Saturday he had Dennis Rodman guarding him down the stretch, and Detroit's defensive confusion gave Jordan the split-second he needed to get to the basket. And even if he missed, Grant, Pippen and Nealy were there for second-chance baskets.

"If you give up 21 offensive rebounds," Pistons Coach Chuck Daly said, "you're going to have a difficult time winning a game on your home court, much less on the road. But there's a fine line here. We didn't defensive rebound, which is one of our strengths."

So there would be no problem if Jordan and Pippen combined for 76 points again, Detroit figures, as long as the Pistons control the other Bulls and a few more rebounds.

"We'd love it if two guys score 80 points, if the rest of the guys score four or five," Rodman said. "That'd be great. You panic when you're, like, three down. That's when you panic. But we still feel like we can do better."