Skip to content
Chicago Bulls stop New Orleans Hornets
New Orleans is a certified NBA playoff team and the Bulls are an aspirant, so there was an appropriately serious feel to Saturday night's United Center exercise before a sellout crowd of 22,135.
Chris Paul is an established All-Star point guard and Derrick Rose is an aspirant, and their first meeting as professionals was an intriguing subplot.
Paul had a decided edge in the box score, collecting a game-high 29 points, but the Bulls got 27 from Ben Gordon and 24 from John Salmons in rolling to a 97-79 victory that halted a three-game losing streak. They also nudged ahead of Milwaukee for the eighth playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
Both teams were playing the second of back-to-backs, but the Bulls were more energetic from start to finish, leading by as many as 24 points in the second quarter.
"They played like the game meant something to them, and we didn't," Hornets coach Byron Scott said. "We were never in the game physically or mentally."
Paul was injured and missed the season's first game with the Bulls. He showed the crowd why he's Chris Paul with some slick perimeter shooting and ball-handling magic, but he was pretty much the Hornets' only weapon.
"Chris can score from the perimeter, but we were more concerned with his penetration," Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro said in explaining some gimmick defenses that had the 6-foot-8-inch Salmons and 6-11 Joakim Noah watching Paul at times.
"He gets into the lane, he's capable of getting 15, 18, 20 assists, then you have [David] West going for 25, [Rasul] Butler getting good shots and everyone's involved," Del Negro said. "But I thought our control of penetration was very good."
On offense, the Bulls won with good ball movement that produced a succession of good shots for Gordon (11-for-17) and Salmons (9-for-15). They were a combined 8-for-15 on three-pointers.
"We got in a rhythm, and our ball movement was great," Gordon said.
They also got a nice lift from Brad Miller, who came off the bench for 15 points, 11 in the first half. Miller consistently hit jumpers after sliding off the pick-and-roll and taking deft feeds from Rose (four points, seven assists).
Miller drew his loudest cheer with a rare tip-in of a missed jumper that gave the Bulls a 24-point cushion as the third quarter ended.
The Bulls had dropped three in a row on the road, two of them winnable games in Miami and Philadelphia.
"I think the guys were a little frustrated, and we came out with some energy and some toughness," Del Negro said.
The Bulls are now 20-11 at home, but an unsightly 10-27 on the road. They have 14 games remaining, nine of them at home, beginning with Tuesday night against the NBA champion Celtics, who "have given us a lot, a lot of problems," Del Negro said.
But at home …
"If we play the way we did tonight, we have a chance to do something," Gordon said. "We have to figure it out on the road in the few road games we have left."