Bulls 96, Hornets 87

Peter Finney Jr., The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

NEW ORLEANS -- Luol Deng scored 20 points and Carlos Boozer added 17 points and 10 rebounds to lift the Chicago Bulls to a 96-87 victory over the New Orleans Hornets Tuesday night at the New Orleans Arena.
In snapping a two-game losing streak, the Bulls (31-22) looked rejuvenated from the All-Star break and overpowered the Hornets on the boards, holding a 47-39 edge. Joakim Noah grabbed 17 rebounds to go with 15 points.
Chicago led 86-80 with 5:30 left, but Boozer stole the ball from Al-Farouq Aminu and fed Deng for a dunk. The Bulls forced the Hornets into seven turnovers on the first 12 possessions of the fourth quarter and led 92-82 with 2:47 left.
Eric Gordon led the Hornets with 20 points, but he committed three turnovers in the final five minutes to blunt any hopes of a New Orleans comeback. Anthony Davis added 15 points and nine rebounds for the Hornets.
Chicago took its biggest lead, 66-54, with 5:01 left in the third quarter courtesy of an 11-4 run that was highlighted by Hinrich's 3-pointer from the right wing and a thunderous dunk by Noah, who was left all alone on the left baseline. Hinrich had 10 assists.
The Hornets clawed back to within 74-66 at the end of the third quarter with a 7-3 spurt that included a running bank shot by Austin Rivers and a follow-up foul shot.
Brian Roberts hit a 16-foot jumper and followed that up with a 3-pointer from the top of the key to cut the Chicago lead to 76-75 with 10:02 left. But Roberts committed back-to-back turnovers to key a 6-0 Chicago run that put the Bulls back on top, 84-77, at 7:06.
The Bulls dominated the Hornets on the offensive boards (9-4) in the first half and held a 26-16 edge overall in rebounding.
Chicago led 45-37 late in the second quarter before Vasquez scored on a driving layup and hit a free throw. Hinrich made a 20-footer on the Bulls' next possession, but Davis closed out the half with a highlight-reel catch of a halfcourt lob pass from Greivis Vasquez. Davis threw up a shot while falling to the ground courtesy of a shove by Noah, and he converted a three-point play to draw New Orleans within 47-43 at halftime.
Deng led the Bulls with nine points in the first half, and Noah had nine rebounds. Gordon paced New Orleans with 12 first-half points, including a 3-pointer and a layup during a 7-0 Hornets' run in the second quarter.
NOTES: Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich returned after missing seven consecutive games with an infection in his right elbow. ... Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said Chicago's two-game losing streak (to San Antonio and Boston) before the All-Star break was rooted in a lack of intensity. "If that dips just a little bit, it doesn't allow you to execute at the highest possible level," Thibodeau said. "The big thing is there were a lot of shortcuts, both on offense and defense. We're holding on to the ball. The turnovers (41 in two games) hurt us. We're being unselfish, but we're making the wrong plays -- trying to thread the needle and ending up breaking things off too early. In order to execute the proper way and sustain your spacing and get to the second and third option, you can't take shortcuts." ... Hornets guard Eric Gordon returned to the lineup after missing a 99-63 victory over Portland with a sprained right hand. "He looked pretty good in practice, and that was an indicator that the days off helped him.," Hornets coach Monty Williams said. ... Williams said the Bulls are such a good rebounding and defensive team, they will be dangerous when Derrick Rose returns from his ACL injury. "That's a team that's built for the playoffs," Williams said. "When they get Rose back, they're going to be a complete team again."

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