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Bulls 97, Jazz 73

The SportsXchange

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Bulls couldn't secure a personal milestone for forward Luol Deng, but they did move past their early season struggles by pounding the winless Utah Jazz 97-73 on Friday night at the United Center.

Deng's night ended with 19 points, 11 rebounds, nine assists and five steals. He finished one assist short of his first career triple-double.

The triple-double seemed to be on everyone's mind. With about eight minutes left, Deng threw the ball to backup center Nazr Mohammed, who quickly launched a 15-foot jumper. That's not completely out of character for Mohammed, but the shot missed.

On the next trip, Deng drove into the lane and dropped a pass for Mohammed. But after a pump fake, the veteran center missed badly on a reverse layup attempt as the home fans groaned.

Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau drew boos from the crowd when he pulled Deng at the 6:15 mark of the fourth quarter. Before Mohammed's two misses, point guard Kirk Hinrich also missed a jumper off a pass from Deng. So three chances to get that 10th assist went awry.

Power forward Carlos Boozer matched Deng's double-double, finishing with 18 points and 10 rebounds against his former team. Center Joakim Noah added 14 points and eight boards.

The Bulls were a perfect 8-0 in preseason, but ever since they lost the regular-season opener at Miami, the focus has been on their slow start. Chicago fell to 1-3 after losing to Eastern Conference frontrunner Indiana on Wednesday.

Against Utah, the Bulls did their best to put the early struggles behind them. They opened a 30-18 lead in the first quarter while shooting snappy 72.2 percent from the field.

Chicago's second unit stretched the advantage to 16 points midway through the second quarter. Utah fought back within nine, but the Bulls opened the third quarter with a 15-6 run, stretching the lead to 66-46 with 6:51 left in the quarter.

In the loss to Indiana, the Bulls produced a paltry 14 points in the paint. This time, they dominated around the basket, outscoring Utah in the paint 56-22.

There weren't many highlights for the Jazz, who dropped to 0-6. Shooting guard Gordon Hayward led the way with 15 points, but hit just 5-of-15 shots from the field. Rookie center Rudy Gobert grabbed 12 rebounds. Backup guard John Lucas III, who played a key role for Chicago during the 2011-12 season, knocked down 3-of-4 shots from 3-point range.

NOTES: Marvin Williams made his season debut for Utah in the second quarter. The veteran forward had surgery on his right heel in May and spent the preseason finishing his recovery. After being acquired in a trade with Atlanta, Williams averaged 7.2 points, a career-low, for Utah last season. A few days ago, Jazz G Brandon Rush made his return against Brooklyn after missing more than a year with a knee injury. ... The dominant storyline in Chicago has been the Bulls' disappointing 1-3 start. "We're a work in progress," C Joakim Noah said Friday. "Everybody has something to say right now. Everybody has their opinions. It's all good. We've just got to keep grinding and keep working. When it starts clicking for us, when our stride comes, it's going to be good." ... Heading into Friday's game, the Bulls ranked 27th in the league in scoring, while the Jazz was 29th. ... Heading into the game, the Bulls carried a five-game winning streak against Utah, their longest in the history of the series.
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