Oh, that Tyson Chandler.
The one the Bulls hoped they had instead of the one wearing a Bulls uniform this season made an impressive appearance Saturday night. The Bulls hope it wasn't a cameo.
The result was a 101-89 Bulls victory over the Indiana Pacers. It even got the restless home crowd booing when the Bulls moved inexorably to an 18-point lead midway through the fourth quarter.
And this time Chandler, the much-maligned big man, could smile about the booing. He even showed an array of aggressive offense, including a nice catch on a three-on-two fast break for a basket, a short jumper after an offensive rebound and enough will to power for a basket and three-point play. He, Andres Nocioni and Jannero Pargo outworked the Pacers down the stretch.
Even if the Bulls had fewer free throws, they were sharp, making 24 of 27 and crushing the Pacers on the backboards 51-35.
"After games like [Friday's loss to Houston], we knew we had to get this win," said Chandler, who had 15 points and 14 rebounds. "That's how you get that killer instinct back."
Nocioni led the Bulls' scorers with 20 points, and Kirk Hinrich added 16. Stephen Jackson had 21 for Indiana, which shot 38.8 percent.
Luol Deng was ejected early in the second quarter. It was rare to see the normally mild-mannered Deng respond to the apparent accumulation of the frustration the Bulls have been experiencing by complaining about a lack of foul calls.
After a missed drive-in shot on which he seemed to get hit by two Pacers, dropping Deng's score line to 0-for-5, Deng whispered some of George Carlin's seven famous words to referee Derrick Stafford and was ejected with two technical fouls.
But if the Bulls lost Deng, they seemed to find Chandler. He left Friday's game with a dislocated finger but drew the start Saturday for Michael Sweetney, who did not play.
Sweetney wasn't missed as the Bulls rebounded from a 27-20 first-quarter deficit. The active Chandler added four points and six rebounds in the second quarter to help the Bulls close to 51-50 at halftime.
"We've gotten off to OK starts," Bulls coach Scott Skiles said. "We've had trouble beginning the third quarter. Rather than change the lineup at halftime, I felt like if we can get some energy early it could carry over for us."
Skiles also continued to search with early first-half substitutions of Malik Allen and Pargo.
But it was mainly a tougher effort from the Bulls, at least in the little things, as they opened up a 75-64 lead after three quarters and pulled away. It broke a 14-game Bulls losing streak here.
When Jermaine O'Neal did get inside post position, the Bulls would not let him get uncontested dunks and made him shoot free throws. The Bulls also turned the Pacers into a jump-shooting team, cutting down the driving angles and pushing the post players farther out.
It was a point of emphasis Skiles said he made when he talked to the team at length following the Friday night loss to the Rockets.
"The one thing very noticeable is we've shot the ball better this year, shot the three better, scored better," he said.
"Our defense is worse. I know there's more to the game than stats. But all you have to do is look at the stats.
"Defensive intensity was our trademark that carried us last year, why we could win games when we shot 39 percent. I was trying to get that across."
For one night, anyway, the Bulls seemed to have heard.
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