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Bulls Fri Dec 24 2010
It's been a mixed bag for the Bulls without center Joakim Noah. In the first of an expected 30-plus games without its best rebounder and post defender, Chicago sandwiched a blowout win against the 76ers between a pair of tight games against the lackluster Clippers and Wizards.
As many had predicted, the Bulls were noticeably weaker on defense without Noah's energy and ferocity. Blake Griffin, the Clippers' star young forward, had a strong night against Taj Gibson, Kurt Thomas and Omar Asik, scoring 29 points and grabbing 12 rebounds in Saturday's one-point Los Angeles win.
Derrick Rose managed to keep his team in it with a game-high 34 points, leading to a pressure-packed finish with Rose at the line with eight-tenths of a second left. Down by two, the guard hit his first free throw but missed his second, ending Chicago's win streak at seven games.
Yet whatever troubles Chicago had against Griffin and the Clippers, they left them behind when they hosted the 76ers on Tuesday night. The Bulls shot 64.5 percent from the field, with Rose and Luol Deng leading the team at 22 points apiece. Up by 18 at halftime, Chicago kept pushing and finished with four starters scoring in double figures and a 45-point victory, 121-76. The win was even more impressive, considering Gibson, Noah's primary replacement (as much as someone like Noah can be replaced, at least), also sat out because of a concussion suffered against the Clippers. It was everything that loss was not, complete with hustle, aggression and the focus to play that way for a full 48 minutes.
Which leads us to Wednesday, when Chicago gutted out a seven-point win at Washington. Behind for much of the game, the Bulls hung close and pulled away at the end with a sudden burst of defensive ferocity, assisted by Carlos Boozer's 30 points and 10 rebounds. The Bulls are now 9-3 since Boozer got back into the lineup; only that one Rose free throw separates them from a 10-game win streak.
If you've missed Noah's hair and goofy smile, check out the video above for a little holiday message from your Chicago Bulls. They play next on Christmas Day, tipping off in New York at 11 a.m. as the first of five games that day on ESPN and ABC. Happy Holidays!