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Bulls rout Jazz as Luol Deng just misses triple-double

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Updated: December 10, 2013 6:17AM



Joakim Noah was smirking before the question was even finished. He had heard the comments from Pacers forward Paul George. The entire Bulls locker room had.

‘‘We want to step away from that shadow as the ‘little brothers’ of this division,’’ George had told NBA.com after the Pacers beat the Bulls on Wednesday night. ‘‘[The Bulls’] success is the Michael Jordan era. This is a new age, this is a new team. It’s ours till they take it.’’

Hard to argue considering the Pacers are now 6-0.

But getting the Utah Jazz on Friday night was at least a good place for the Bulls to start.

Thanks to forward Luol Deng coming just an assist short of a triple-double, the Bulls improved to 2-3 with a 97-73 victory over the winless Jazz (0-6) at the United Center.

‘‘It’s all good,’’ Noah said of George’s comment. ‘‘It’s Game 5 of the season, man. It’s a long journey. We’ll see those guys again.’’

Next week, as a matter of fact.

But looking ahead is the last thing this Bulls team can do. Sure, it was only the Jazz, but Friday was the first complete game the starters have really had this season. Derrick Rose, Noah, Deng and Carlos Boozer each scored in double digits, led by Deng’s 19 points, 11 rebounds, nine assists and five steals.

Deng had a chance at the first triple-double of his career in the fourth quarter, but Nazr Mohammed had two consecutive misses off Deng passes before coach Tom Thibodeau pulled Deng.

‘‘Close to the triple-double. It didn’t happen. Move on to the next one,’’ Deng said. ‘‘It would have been cool, but there’s two sides to it. On one side there’s, ‘It took him 10 years to get it.’ The other side is, man, I’ve been close many times, so that’s the other side. But I’m really not worried about it at all.’’

He shouldn’t be. There’s enough for this team to be concerned about through the first two weeks.

The energy on defense had been low, the turnovers high and Rose’s play erratic. Nothing a game against the Jazz couldn’t cure, especially with the Bulls jumping out to a 30-18 lead after the first quarter.

‘‘I thought the first quarter was terrific,’’ Thibodeau said. ‘‘I thought that set the tone for the game. Our starters made sure that the group functioned well together, and that was a big plus for us.’’

Deng scored seven points with five assists in the first quarter.

‘‘He was terrific,’’ Thibodeau said. ‘‘I thought there was a lot of unselfish play, guys making the extra pass. I thought the screening was a lot better, hitting the open man, running the floor, great effort defensively, and that’s what it’s going to take.’’

As for Rose, while he only had 12 points, he went 5-for-5 from the free-throw line and had five assists.

‘‘We’ll take any win,’’ Rose said. ‘‘It feels good that we were just executing our offense and getting in a groove. We haven’t had a groove in any of our games that we played in before [Friday], but we can’t get hyped because we won just one game.’’

Email: jcowley@suntimes.com



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