CHICAGO (AP) — Carlos Boozer scored 26 of his season-high 31 points in the first half, leading the short-handed Chicago Bulls to a 118-97 win over the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday night.

Boozer hit 12 of 15 shots in the opening half and scored eight points during a 12-point burst that opened up a 20-point lead for Chicago, which was playing without Derrick Rose for the second straight game because of a sprained left big toe.

The Bulls improved to 6-0 at home for the first time since 1996-97, though they allowed more than 74 points to an opponent for the first time at home this season. Chicago has won its home games by an average margin of 19 points this season.

Steve Nash led Phoenix with 25 points and nine assists, but the Suns allowed a fourth straight opponent to top 100 points and lost their fifth game in a row.

C.J. Watson scored a season-high 23 points, Luol Deng added 15 and Joakim Noah had 13 points and 12 rebounds for Chicago as all five starters scored in double figures.

The Bulls didn’t miss Rose while posting a season-high in points and totaling 31 assists while committing just six turnovers. Chicago pushed the ball down the floor quickly all night despite the absence of the reigning league MVP, outscoring Phoenix 13-11 in transition and getting a number of open looks on the secondary break.

Boozer scored 14 points in the second quarter as the Bulls took a 67-47 lead into the break, a lofty total for a team that averaged 85.4 points in its first five home games. It was the most points the Bulls have scored in a half this season.

Chicago scored the first seven points of the second half, six by Noah, and led by as many as 28 points while cruising to the easy win.

Watson quickly took advantage of his first start of the season, scoring 13 points in the opening period. Boozer added 12 as Chicago shot 72 percent the period, taking a 39-31 lead and posting a season-high for points in a quarter.

Nash kept Phoenix close early with 13 points and six assists in the first quarter and the Suns shot 65 percent in the period.

Marcin Gortat had 14 points and 15 rebounds for the Suns.

NOTES: Watson was playing just his second game after missing nine because of a left elbow sprain. … Richard Hamilton started for the first time since Jan. 4 and scored 11 points after missing the Bulls’ previous eight games because of a sore left groin. He missed 10 of Chicago’s last 11 games because of the injury. … Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau was celebrating his 54th birthday. When asked before the game what he wanted, he simply said, “A win.” … The Bulls have played 16 games in the first 24 days of the compressed NBA season, more than any other team in the league. They have the next two days off. . The Bulls took a 63-62 lead in the all-time series against Phoenix, which started in 1968-69. Tuesday’s game was the only meeting between the clubs this season.

(© 2012 by STATS LLC and Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited.)

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