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Boozer leads Bulls to victory over Jazz

The SportsXchange

SALT LAKE CITY -- Carlos Boozer got a bit of revenge on Utah Jazz fans who booed their former power forward all night Friday.

Al Jefferson had a season-high 32 points and grabbed 13 rebounds, but Boozer stole the spotlight against his old team by scoring 11 of his 19 points in the final five minutes to lift the Chicago Bulls to a 93-89 win over the Utah Jazz on Friday night at EnergySolutions Arena.

"It was a good win for us," said Boozer, adding that his team wanted to bounce back after losing 128-96 in Denver on Thursday. "We came in today focused and had a great start to the game. They are a good team. They fought all the way back. Al and Sap (Paul Millsap) had it rolling. At the end of the game, we did a good job finishing."

Nate Robinson scored 18 points and dished out nine assists, Joakim Noah contributed 12 points and 11 rebounds in his second game back, and Luol Deng had 15 points and 10 boards in the win for Chicago.

Noah and Deng hit key free throws in the final 22 seconds to clinch the victory, which improved Chicago's record to 30-20.

This game concluded a lengthy, six-game road trip for the Bulls, who managed a 3-3 split away from home. The excursion began on Jan. 30 and included wins at Milwaukee and Atlanta along with losses in Brooklyn, Indiana and Denver.

"I am just glad we got the win. That is the thing we needed. We needed to bounce back," Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau said. "We took a punch last night, but we got up today and we fought. That is exactly what you have to do. You can't look backwards."

Jefferson had season highs in points and in field-goals made (15), and helped Utah build a four-point lead in the fourth quarter after scoring 12 straight for his team.

However, Jefferson didn't score in the final eight-and-a-half minutes.

"With two guys on me and guys fronting me and all this stuff, we've just got to take advantage of that," Jefferson said. "I think we did, for the most part, and we had a chance to win. Things just didn't go our way in the end."

The Jazz dropped to 28-23 and fell for only the second time at home in 12 contests.

Playing against his mentor, Millsap scored 21 points but only had three rebounds with three turnovers in the matchup with Boozer.

Millsap missed a game-tying 3-point attempt with 16.9 seconds remaining. He also took exception when it was suggested the Boozer beat the Jazz.

Randy Foye scored 14 points, but the Jazz only had three players in double figures and had just 20 points in the fourth quarter against the defensive-minded Bulls.

Boozer, plagued by foul problems and serenaded with a chorus of boos every time he touched the ball by disgruntled Utah fans, only had eight points before going berserk in the final five minutes. His scoring spree included hitting 5 of 6 free throws.

It was Boozer's second visit since he left for Chicago in 2010 after spending six successful-but-injury-plagued seasons with the Jazz.

The Bulls, who overcame an 11-point third quarter, have now beaten the Jazz four times in a row.

"I'm not sure he's the guy that beat us," Millsap said. "They've got a whole team, and they did a good job. Down the stretch, he hits a couple shots, got fouled, but that's not what lost us the game."

Millsap came out strong against the man whose shadow he played in before Boozer left for Chicago from Utah in 2010. The current Jazz power forward had 11 points in the first quarter -- as did Jefferson -- but an early five-point lead by the home team was short-lived.

The Bulls finished the first quarter on a 15-6 surge. Their advantage increased to as high as 13 points in the second quarter when Taj Gibson hit a jumper to put Chicago ahead 58-45 two minutes before halftime.

The Jazz took a bit of momentum heading into the break with a 3-pointer from Randy Foye and a short jumper by Jefferson, trimming the Bulls' lead to 58-50.

That spurt continued in the second half, with Marvin Williams opening the third quarter with a shot beyond the arc followed by another Jefferson bucket.

The teams traded blows following that extended 10-0 run, until Utah tied it heading into the fourth quarter thanks to consecutive Jefferson baskets.

Utah's red-hot center gave the Jazz a 77-73 lead with just under nine minutes remaining after scoring 12 straight points.

DeMarre Carroll ended the Jefferson streak with a fast-break dunk with 7:13 remaining, but it's worth noting that Big Al began the transition play with a defensive rebound and outlet pass.

The Jazz were ahead 81-77 when Boozer did his best Jefferson impersonation, scoring 11 straight Chicago points to help the Bulls catch up and pass the Jazz. Boozer hit 5 of 6 free throws in the final two minutes, including a pair with 27.0 seconds left to give Chicago an 88-85 lead.

NOTES: Jazz forward Jeremy Evans was flooded with ideas -- and anticipates getting more -- after Thursday's announcement that he will defend his Slam Dunk championship from a year ago. "From the competitors I've seen, it's going to be a good show and I have a lot of competition," Evans said. "So I've got to bring it." ... Evans is only the third Jazz player to be invited to dunk in consecutive years, joining Darrell Griffith (1984, 1985) and Blue Edwards (1990, 1991). "Of course, there's always pressure, not only just because you're the champion," Evans said. "You want to win. You compete not against them but against yourself." ... This game happened almost two years to the date that Hall of Fame coach Jerry Sloan resigned the day after the Jazz and Bulls played on Feb. 9, 2011. ... "They've been a gold standard in the league for such a long time," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said of the Jazz. "Obviously, it started with Frank Layden, and you can't say enough about what Jerry Sloan did as a coach. He stood for all the good things about this league -- play hard, smart, tough, unselfish, a great leader, great coach, great person. You can't say enough about him." ... Jazz sixth man Gordon Hayward (sprained right shoulder) missed his seventh straight game. ... Utah backup point guard Earl Watson (right leg) is expected to return Saturday night at Sacramento after missing the past four games.
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