For Emeka Okafor, the success he enjoyed at Storrs has never felt so far away.
Gordon hopes to help the Bulls win eight straight home games for the first time in seven seasons when they meet the expansion Charlotte Bobcats for the first time.
The game features the first meeting between former college teammates Okafor and Gordon, who led Connecticut to the national championship and then were taken with the second and third picks in the NBA draft.
Okafor is the favorite for Rookie of the Year honors, but Charlotte has won only once in the last month despite his strong play. Gordon, meanwhile, has overcome a slow start to his NBA career by becoming a key contributor on a Chicago team that is now a season-best two games over .500 after an 0-9 start.
Not even fatigue and injury have been able to slow down the surging Bulls lately.
The Bulls won their seventh straight at the United Center on Tuesday, beating the Denver Nuggets 111-107 behind the play of a banged-up Eddy Curry. The win was Chicago’s fourth in five nights and 11th in 12 games.
Curry got hurt in warmups and couldn’t start, but by the time the fourth quarter rolled around, Chicago’s center took control of the game by scoring 14 points in the final period.
“I started playing like myself again. I definitely had a lot of energy,” said Curry, who strained his groin while warming up in a one-on-one game with teammate Antonio Davis.
“I really wasn’t warm yet and I got hurt. I took a couple of Advil and tried to ease the pain a little. I knew it wasn’t going to completely go away, but somehow I had to get warm and I did.”
Curry went scoreless in two first-half minutes. He started the second half and scored two points before leaving again after less than four minutes.
But he re-entered to start the fourth and right away made his presence felt with 11 quick points on a three-point play, three dunks and a hook to help the Bulls take a 96-88 lead.
“We needed his spark, he gave us the boost,” Chicago’s Tyson Chandler said. “It was huge. Everybody was tired.”
Gordon added 18 points for Chicago, which is 14-9 at home. The Bulls haven’t won eight in a row on their home court since a 10-game winning streak from Feb. 28-April 11, 1998, and are facing a Charlotte club that is 1-17 on the road this season.
The Bobcats had their franchise-record losing streak extended to nine games on Tuesday with a 97-92 home defeat to the Boston Celtics. Charlotte has dropped 15 of 16 since winning three of four games from Dec. 14-22.
Okafor scored all 20 of his points in the second half and added 12 rebounds and five blocked shots Tuesday, but was 0-for-4 at the free-throw line and the Bobcats were 10-of-22.
Charlotte is 29th in the NBA in free-throw shooting, hitting just 66.6 percent.
“Every game it’s the same story, we just can’t make free throws,” Bobcats center Primoz Brezec said. “This is getting ridiculous. We can’t knock them down and it’s in our heads.”