CHICAGO (AP)—Luol Deng’s happy to be sticking around with the Chicago Bulls. Now that the trade deadline has come and gone and there are no more rumors to deal with, he can just go out and play basketball.
“The fact that it’s over, I think that’s good. The best thing about it is people stop talking about it,” Deng said Friday night after matching his career high with 32 points to lead the Bulls over Gilbert Arenas and the Washington Wizards 105-90.
“It’s going to cross your mind, no matter what,” Deng said of the trade speculation. “That was the biggest thing, you just heard it everywhere you go.”
Deng’s 13-of-22 shooting and 11 rebounds helped the Bulls win their third straight since the All-Star break—two of the wins over teams above them in the Eastern Conference, the Cavaliers and Wizards on back-to-back nights. And it also showed why the Bulls were not willing to part with him to acquire a low-post scorer.
“We said the break would be great for us. But we have to go out and prove it and that’s what we’re doing,” Deng added.
“I do think a lot of it is confidence. I still got to work on a lot of things.”
Kirk Hinrich had 20 points, 12 assists and eight rebounds, offsetting a 36-point effort from Arenas.
“Luol Deng canceled me out,” Arenas said. “He played great, shot the ball well inside and outside. … It was like everything they put up, they scored— from Kirk Hinrich to Luol Deng.”
Arenas, who made 11 of 20 shots, had 18 straight points for Washington at one stretch of the second half. His three-point play got Washington within four in the final quarter, but then the Bulls took off.
Thabo Sefolosha got free for a layup, Deng scored on a jumper and Hinrich made a steal and a layup in a quick 9-0 run that put the Bulls ahead 90-77. Moments later, Hinrich came up with a loose ball and fed an alley oop to Deng for a dunk, clinching the victory.
“When you look at the stat sheet and Arenas’ game, it’s hard to say we played good defense on him,” Chicago coach Scott Skiles said. “I felt we did play good defense on him for the most part. He hit some tough shots.”
Chicago guard Chris Duhon was ejected with 2:13 left in the third quarter after getting two technical fouls.
Duhon knocked the ball away from Arenas and then went to the floor for the ball as Arenas fell over him in the scramble. When Duhon was called for a foul on the play, he got up in disbelief and went toward official Pat Fraher to argue. Fraher then called Duhon for two technical fouls and ejected him, leading to four straight free throws by Arenas that cut the lead to 68-65.
“I thought he made a great hustle play. He knocked the ball away and got to the ball first,” Skiles said. “I can understand his frustration and his anger.”
The Bulls now face the Pistons on Sunday in Ben Wallace’s return to Detroit.
Wallace finished with 12 rebounds and five blocks and Deng had 11 rebounds. Ben Gordon chipped in 18 points, and the Bulls had just five turnovers in the entire game.
Wallace said he’s not sure what kind of reaction he’ll get when he returns to Detroit on Sunday, his first trip back since signing with the Bulls as a free agent. “Those are Piston fans and I’m a Bull,” he said. “`If they cheer it will be great. If they boo it will be great. As long as I get some type of reaction.” … Andres Nocioni aggravated a foot injury Thursday night in Cleveland and sat out for the eighth time in nine games. He told reporters after the game he might miss three more weeks. … Arenas reached the 30-point mark for the 26th time this season. In the first two meetings between the Bulls and Wizards this season, he scored 30 points total.