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Deng finishes assist shy of triple-double in Bulls win

The SportsXchange

CHICAGO -- After starting the season with three losses in four games, the Chicago Bulls needed a victory more than forward Luol Deng needed a personal milestone.

The Bulls collected the victory, pounding winless Utah 97-73 on Friday at the United Center. Deng's night ended with 19 points, 11 rebounds, 9 assists and 5 steals. He finished an assist short of his first career triple-double.

"It would have been cool, but there's two sides of it," Deng said. "One side, it took him 10 years to get it. The other side is I've been close many times. It's cool. I'm really not worried about it at all."

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.

"I was definitely aware of it," Mohammed said. "I was trying to get it for him. When I saw he had it, I kind of pulled (the jumper). It would have been nice if I got it for him. I tried. I'll take him out to dinner."

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, guard Kirk Hinrich also missed a jumper off a pass from Deng. So three chances to get the 10th assist went awry.

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 8 boards. The Bulls shot 52.8 percent from the field and limited Utah to 29.4 percent shooting.

"One game doesn't mean everything's all straightened out," Thibodeau said. "We have to take a hard look at ourselves and make the necessary corrections."

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 in the rear view mirror. 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 9, 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.

"We have to make sure we don't feel sorry for ourselves," Utah coach Tyrone Corbin said. "Our defense struggled because our offense did. We just have to continue to work hard and find ways to get the ball in the basket."

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. 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: F Marvin Williams made his season debut for Utah in the second quarter. He scored 3 points in 11 minutes. 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 this game, the Bulls ranked 27th in the league in scoring, while the Jazz was 29th. ... The Bulls won their sixth straight against Utah, their longest streak in the history of the series.
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