CHICAGO (AP) – Luol Deng scored 24 points, Derrick Rose had 18 points and 13 assists after a slow start, and the Chicago Bulls beat the pesky Charlotte Bobcats 106-94 on Tuesday night for their ninth win in 11 games.
In a game of momentum swings, the Bulls needed a strong finish to pull this one out and put away a team that blew out the Lakers the previous night. Chicago opened the fourth quarter on a 10-2 run to take control on a night when Bobcats owner Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen sat next to each other at courtside.
Deng hit 10 of 19 shots. Rose, who outscored Deron Williams and Chris Paul by a combined 52-26 in wins at Utah and New Orleans, shot just 5 of 14 but came up big down the stretch.
Gerald Henderson led Charlotte with 22 points. Stephen Jackson added 20, Boris Diaw added 18, but the Bobcats came up short trying to take down their second division leader in as many nights.
Even so, that probably won’t stop them from removing the interim tag from coach Paul Silas’ title. General manager Rod Higgins told the Associated Press they’re discussing a one-year extension, and the way this team’s playing, it’s not hard to see why.
The Bobcats are 15-13 under Silas and have made a Jordan-like jump back into playoff contention after a 9-19 start under Larry Brown.
They just couldn’t pull this one out after beating the Bulls twice last month.
With a 78-73 lead, Taj Gibson hit two free throws to start the fourth quarter and Rose added two more after a dunk by Henderson. A dunk by Gibson, a driving finger-roll layup by Deng and a basket by Omer Asik made it 88-75 with 8:16 remaining, and the Bulls stayed in control from there.
For much of the night, though, the teams battled back and forth.
The Bulls saw an 11-point lead in the second quarter disintegrate into a 43-42 deficit before they scored 10 of 12 to close out the half and go up 52-45.
In the third quarter, it was more of the same.
The Bobcats tied it at 57 on a layup by Gerald Wallace.
Rose finally got going after scoring five in the first half, starting a 10-2 run with a neat up-and-under layup for a three-point play and freezing Shaun Livingston with a crossover on a drive. He also hit two free throws before Keith Bogans nailed a 3 to make it 69-59 with 3:50 left, but the Bobcats kept coming back.
They scored seven straight late in the quarter to pull within 76-73 before Deng nailed a 15-footer with 3 seconds left.
Notes: Chicago’s Kurt Thomas became the 96th player to appear in 1,000 games. … Charlotte’s D.J. Augustin, bothered by a sprained left wrist, finished with four points in 15 minutes. The Bobcats don’t play again until Feb. 22, and Silas believes the time off will help him. “He was working so hard and going so hard that he kind of hit a wall,” Silas said. “Now, with the rest, I think coming back he’s going to be straight ahead again.” … Eduardo Najera, bothered by a groin problem, did not play.
Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.