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Noah sits with illness, but Chicago still dominates inside

Bulls triumph in Magic’s kingdom

Published: Thursday, Jan. 3, 2013 12:16 a.m. CDT
Bulls forward Carlos Boozer (left) goes to the basket in front of the Orlando Magic's Josh McRoberts during the second half Wednesday in Orlando, Fla.

ORLANDO, Fla. — The Chicago Bulls haven't felt like themselves for much of the past few weeks.

They're hoping a much-needed win is the first step in finding their way back.

Carlos Boozer had a season-high 31 points and 11 rebounds, Luol Deng scored 23 points and the Bulls hung on to beat the Orlando Magic 96-94 on Wednesday night.

Taj Gibson added 21 points and 10 rebounds for the Bulls, who played without center Joakim Noah. Chicago was outrebounded 37-34 in Noah's absence, but exploited an injury-plagued Magic front court, outscoring them 42-32 in the paint.

Jameer Nelson missed a leaning jumper in the closing seconds that would have tied it, sending Orlando to its seventh straight loss overall and fifth in a row at home.

"We're down. We've been shorthanded all season," Boozer said. "But this game we were without Joakim and I thought Taj came in and played a monster game. Luol was normal with his All-Star performance. We did a god job at the end being resilient ... We did a good job of when we needed to of getting stops at the very end."

Nelson returned to the lineup after missing two games with a sore hip and scored a season-high 32 points. Nik Vucevic finished with 20 points and 12 rebounds, and Arron Afflalo added 19 points for the Magic.

They dropped to 0-7 without Glen Davis, who could be sidelined for a few more weeks as he rehabs a sprained left shoulder.

"I think teammates would agree that there's no secret that Glen adds a different element to our team," Magic coach Jacque Vaughn said. "But ... it's about time for us to realize as a team that Glen's probably not going to play 2 days from now, so we need to continue to work together ... and muster the energy and approach still."

Vaughn rested forward Maurice Harkless for the second consecutive game. But he said it was simply a coach's decision to ensure the rookie, who was thrust into a starting role while Hedo Turkoglu was injured, is getting enough rest.

In the meantime, Orlando has just a handful of days to attend to its continuing shortcomings with the Atlantic division-leading New York Knicks visiting Saturday.

"That's something we need to do," Vucevic said of the Magic's fourth-quarter effort. "We never give up. We stick together as a team ... That's something going forward that is going to help us going down the road."

Despite Noah watching the game from the team hotel as he fought flu-like symptoms, the Bulls did get back guard Kirk Hinrich after he missed a game with a sore left knee. Hinrich's shooting ability and ball handling allowed them to spread the court and get some easy looks inside against the smaller Magic lineup.

They took advantage of the absence Davis, and a tender Gustavo Ayon (sore thigh), as Chicago's starting frontcourt of Deng, Boozer and Gibson outscored their Magic counterparts 75-30.

"It was better, but it's not what it needs to be," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. "We had good offensive energy, and not the necessary defensive energy. It was better, but we still have to do much better than we did tonight."

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