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Deng leads Bulls to fifth straight win

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Updated: November 19, 2013 2:52PM



In their last game before the circus came to town and sent them packing, it was much more of a high-wire act than the Bulls wanted.

But they overcame a bushel of missed baskets to defeat Charlotte 86-81 at the United Center on Monday despite shooting 36 percent.

``Sometimes you have to find different ways to win,’’ coach Tom Thibodeau said. ``That was the thing I did like. I thought we showed a lot of toughness down the stretch. We made the necessary plays to pull out the win.’’

With the win, the Bulls (6-3) extended their winning streak to five games, their longest since March of 2012. Ironically, the Bobcats’ rookie coach, Steve Clifford, made life miserable for his friend and mentor, Thibodeau, who often looked very displeased while pacing the sideline.

Luol Deng, who led the Bulls with 21 points, drained the dagger that sank the Bobcats (5-6). With 27.1 seconds left, he hit a three-pointer near the top of the key off a long pass from Derrick Rose that put the Bulls ahead 85-81.

``We’ll take it, for sure,’’ Rose said. ``We aren’t giving any wins back. This game, we weren’t shooting well. Defense and effort gave us this win--sticking together toward the end.’’

In a big plus on the ledger, Boozer (12 points, 5 for 17, and 17 rebounds) and Joakim Noah (11 points, 7 rebounds) willed themselves to some physical low-post baskets down the stretch, and Rose (12 points, 4 for 13) went to the hoop strong to go with Deng’s clutch shot. They showed the Bulls weren’t going to surrender their home turf without a battle.

``It was a defensive struggle,’’ Boozer said. ``We did what we had to do at the end of the game to win. `[Deng] hit a big shot for us at the end. You win games in different ways.’’

Adding to a difficult night, Jimmy Butler, who had 10 of his 14 points in the first quarter, left the game in the third quarter with a right-toe injury.

``It’s nothing major. I’ll be back,’’ said Butler, adding that there’s no question he’ll play in Denver on Thursday. ``I just pushed off of it the wrong way. I’ll be good to go.’’

How tough of a night was it for the Bulls?

They made 27 of 75 shots and were turnover-prone (10) in the first half. They railed 44-40 at the break after going scoreless in the final five minutes of the second quarter.

The four-game winning streak the Bulls brought into the Charlotte contest had produced some sighs of relief, especially because of the way the West Siders rubbed Indiana’s nose it while handing the Pacers their first loss of the season on Saturday.

But the Bulls knew this was just the beginning of a long journey, one that will go far beyond their November barnstorm. The hope is that it will last until June.

`We just have to keep going,’’ Noah said. ``We’re a work in progress. We still have a lot of work to do. The more we practice, the more we play together, the more comfortable we’re going to be. We just have to keep that mindset of `stay hungry.’ Be aggressive on the defensive end, and that’s going to give us easy opportunities on the offensive end.’’

EMAIL: hgould@suntimes.com

TWITTER: @herbgould



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