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Bulls don't get fooled again, rout Bobcats

The SportsXchange

By John Delong

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - The Chicago Bulls took the Charlotte Bobcats lightly earlier this season, and they paid the price.

They weren't about to let it happen again on Friday night.

Eight Chicago players scored in double figures, and the Bulls put on a dominant performance in all facets for a 105-75 victory.

Coach Tom Thibodeau was particularly pleased with his team's focus, coming a night after the Bulls were thoroughly whipped by Miami 86-67 in Chicago on Thursday night.

The Bulls shot 50.6 percent from the field, had 37 assists on their 42 field goals, committed only six turnovers, and held the Bobcats to 33.3 percent shooting from the field.

"I thought we had the right mindset," Thibodeau said. "We were disappointed in the way we played and we felt we beat ourselves yesterday, so we wanted to correct that, and I thought we responded well to that.

"The important thing was the way we approached today. You can use the excuse of back to back, get in late, or whatever, but we chose none of that. We chose to work and came out ready, got the lead early, played hard and played well."

The Bobcats had stunned the Bulls 91-81 in Chicago on Dec. 31.

"We just wanted to come with the right approach," said center Joakim Noah. "Obviously it's not the same caliber team as Miami, but it's always tough to play back-to-back and we came ready to play."

Taj Gibson came off the bench to lead the Bulls with 17 points. Luol Deng scored 14, Jimmy Butler, Marco Belinelli and Nate Robinson scored 12 each, and Carlos Boozer, Richard Hamilton and Noah scored 10 each. Boozer also had 10 rebounds.

Thibodeau liked nearly every aspect of the offense.

"I thought the ball movement was very good," he said. "I thought the screening was good, the cutting was good. We had eight players in double figures, 37 assists, so that part was all good."

The defense was as impressive, holding the Bobcats to 25 of 75 from the field. The Bobcats hit just seven of their first 29 shots, and by that time the Bulls had raced to a 40-19 lead. Chicago led 51-37 at halftime and pushed the margin up to 30 on several occasions in the second half.

"When everybody's on the same page defensively, we're a whole different team," Noah said. "I think we were aggressive from the start of the game and were able to set the tone, get stops, and run in transition and get going a little bit."

The Bulls are now 32-23 heading to Oklahoma City for a game Sunday.

The Bobcats, who fell to a league-worst 13-42, have now lost three games this season by 30 or more points, and 10 by 20 or more.

"We can do better than that, and we've had better energy," coach Mike Dunlap said. "The thing our team needs to understand is that the front door and the back door to our house is how hard we play.

"It's been endearing to people and people have tolerated the losing to this point because we've played incredibly hard. But we've had three or four games like this where it just wasn't there, and you kind of have to go through it."

Kemba Walker led the Bobcats with 27 points, and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist finished with 10. But Byron Mullens was 1 for 12 from the field for two points and Ramon Sessions was 0 for 9.

NOTES: The Bulls' Kirk Hinrich was out for the ninth time in the last 10 games with a right elbow injury, but Thibodeau said that Hinrich was improving and could play Sunday at Oklahoma City. Hinrich's only game this month has been a 30-minute effort against New Orleans on Tuesday. ... Ben Gordon didn't get off the bench for the Bobcats, a sign of the rift between him and Dunlap. Dunlap said he was committed to playing younger players. ... Friday night's game showcased four former Duke players -- Gerald Henderson and newly acquired Josh McRoberts for the Bobcats, Deng and Boozer for the Bulls. ... McRoberts, acquired from Orlando on Thursday in a trade for Hakim Warrick, said his transition to the Bobcats shouldn't take long. He's with his fifth team in five seasons and has the routine down pat. ... The Bobcats will close out a three-game home stand Saturday night against Denver, then will head out for a four-game West Coast trip.
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