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Bulls can’t handle hometown boy Anthony Davis

The Pelicans’ Anthony Davis drives around Bulls’ Joakim Noah Saturday. He scored game-high 24 points. | Getty Images

The Pelicans’ Anthony Davis drives around the Bulls’ Joakim Noah on Saturday. He scored a game-high 24 points. | Getty Images

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Updated: March 3, 2014 5:56PM



NEW ORLEANS — Anthony Davis missed two of his first three games against his hometown team because of injuries.

As the Bulls found out Saturday, it’s much easier to play the New Orleans Pelicans without the kid from Perspectives-MSA on the court.

Thanks to Davis’ 24 points, eight rebounds and six blocks, the Pelicans beat the Bulls 88-79.

‘‘Great player,’’ Bulls center Joakim Noah, who had 14 points and 16 rebounds, said of Davis. ‘‘He hit a lot of shots [10-for-14]. He’s active defensively. Great player.’’

Backup big man Taj Gibson was equally impressed.

‘‘He let the game come to him,’’ Gibson said. ‘‘He took his shots at the right time. His teammates got the ball to him on drive-and-kicks, and that was really tough. Plus, his shot-blocking. I mean, he runs the floor like a deer. I thought he played really well.’’

And his shot-blocking was contagious. The Pelicans had 14 blocks overall.

Coach Tom Thibodeau thought that was a factor, but he said it was just one of the Bulls’ many problems.

‘‘The rim protection is good, but we had 11 missed free throws, [and] I thought that hurt us,’’ Thibodeau said. ‘‘They beat us to loose balls, [and] that hurt us more. Down two at the end of the first [quarter], and they go 14-3 at the start of the second. Played from behind most of the game, didn’t shoot the three well [3-for-16]. You’ve got to make shots to pull them [away] from the basket.’’

The real head-scratcher was that the Bulls (23-23) were coming off a huge road victory Wednesday against the San Antonio Spurs. Even with the Spurs playing short-handed, the Bulls looked like a team that was about to go on a run.

Davis had other plans, however. He not only scored inside, but he knocked down jumper after jumper from mid-range, making him hard for Noah and Gibson to guard.

‘‘Well, it opens things up for them,’’ Thibodeau said of Davis’ improvement with his jumper. ‘‘It opens up their cutting game, and then you’ve got to get up on him. Then he has the great quickness to go by you.’’

And whenever it felt like the Bulls were ready to make a run, Davis was there with his shot-blocking.

‘‘I’m just trying to protect the rim,’’ Davis said. ‘‘My teammates are doing a great job of not fouling while guys are driving to the basket, so I’m there to clean up.’’

The Bulls have some cleaning up of their own to do going into back-to-back games Monday at the Sacramento Kings and Tuesday at the Phoenix Suns.

‘‘We had a couple of days off, they had a couple of days off,’’ Thibodeau said. ‘‘Davis didn’t play in the last game [because of a finger injury]. He had good energy and made his jump shots. But I think the biggest thing was they beat us to loose balls. I think it’s important to play with a lead, [and] we didn’t do that.

‘‘We’ve got to regroup and get ready for the next one.’’

Email: jcowley@suntimes.com



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