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Bulls draw upon reserves in win

The SportsXchange

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Bulls have been missing their star, Derrick Rose, in every game this season and have frequently lost other key players to injuries. On Saturday night against Indiana, they needed several unlikely heroes to step up in an 87-84 victory at the United Center.

Veteran center Nazr Mohammed got his second start of the season in place of injured Joakim Noah and scored 11 points. Seldom-used shooting guard Daequan Cook sparked a surge that sent the Bulls in front early in the fourth quarter.

Luol Deng led the Bulls with 20 points, and Carlos Boozer contributed 18 points and 10 rebounds.

Paul George led the Pacers with 23 points.

"That's the way we have to play. We have to do it collectively," Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau said. "A lot of guys stepped up. I thought Luol was terrific, set the tone. Carlos got going. Nazr, big lift. Daequan, big lift. We needed everybody."

Trailing 87-80 with under a minute to go, Indiana nearly pulled off a miracle comeback.

First, George Hill knocked down a 3-point shot off a jump ball and was fouled. The four-point play trimmed Chicago's lead to three with 40 seconds remaining.

After a Bulls miss, George got two shots off from 3-point range that could have tied the score. He missed them both and Chicago ended a two-game home losing streak.

"Give credit to the Bulls for toughing it out with a lot of injuries," Indiana coach Frank Vogel said. "I'm proud of our effort. It's just very tough to beat a team four times."

Chicago spark plug Nate Robinson was ejected with 27.3 seconds left in the third quarter after committing a grade 2 flagrant foul while trying to stop Indiana's Lance Stephenson on a fast break. Robinson grabbed Stephenson by the shoulders and ended up throwing him on his back. After referees reviewed the play on video, Robinson was sent to the locker room.

"The thing I liked about it, he made unbelievable effort to get back and not concede the points," Thibodeau said.

The score was tied 66-66 at the time. Stephenson made one of the free throws, Indiana failed to score on the ensuing possession and the Bulls took their first lead since early in the game when Cook drove the length of the floor for a layup just before time expired in the third quarter.

Cook, who didn't play two days earlier against Portland, kept contributing for Chicago. He opened the fourth quarter with a 3-point basket and later set up Taj Gibson for a dunk.

"I was just out there doing whatever I could," said Cook, who joined the Bulls on Jan. 6. "It's all about preparation, being patient and waiting your turn. I always prepare that I'm going to play every game."

Cook knocked down a jumper to put the Bulls ahead 81-72 with 4:31 remaining. Not long after that, Cook made a great hustle play, intercepting a long pass intended for Stephenson, then successfully saving the ball to teammate Kirk Hinrich.

After releasing the pass, though, Cook crashed into a courtside photographer and had to be helped to the locker room. His injury was termed a left thigh bruise and he wasn't sure if he'll be able to play Sunday at Minnesota.

Trying to complete a four-game season sweep against the Bulls for the first time since 2001-02, Indiana opened a 31-21 advantage in the second quarter. Deng scored eight points in a 13-4 run that got Chicago back in the game. The Bulls trailed 44-39 at halftime.

Marco Belinelli and George were given double technicals late in the second quarter. After fouling Stephenson on a fast break, Belinelli appeared to say something to the Pacers guard and was pushed away by George.

"Yes, it is a tough rivalry," George said. "Right now, we're still competing for the (Central) division championship and playoff spots. We knew it would be a grind out game and it would be tough."

NOTES: Noah was scratched from Saturday's game due to plantar fasciitis in his feet. Noah missed three games in early February with the same problem, but has played well lately. Thibodeau wasn't sure whether Noah would travel with the team for Sunday's game at Minnesota. ... For Indiana, power forward David West missed his fourth game with a sore back and forward Danny Granger remains sidelined by a sore knee. ... With Noah out, Mohammed started for the second time this season. ... Chicago guard Richard Hamilton, out since Feb. 26 with a sore back, shot baskets after practice on Friday, but there's no timetable for his return.
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