The Bulls went into the All-Star break having won four of their last five after again throttling an Eastern Conference playoff team on the boards and controlling the pace of the game. After again jumping out to a double digit lead in the first half, the Bulls saw Brooklyn slowly fight their way back within single digits midway through the fourth quarter, before a final Bulls run ended things for good.
Joakim Noah once again paced the Bulls with his energy and effort, finishing with 14 points, 13 rebounds, 7 assists and 2 blocks on 6-10 shooting from the field. He heads into the All-Star break firmly entrenched as the leader of this team and ready to prove he is an elite big man in this league. Taj Gibson continued his surge, leading the team with 16 points and 5 boards on 7-14 shooting. Carlos Boozer returned with a strong 15 points and 10 boards for the Bulls, who also received double digits scoring efforts from Mike Dunleavy and Jimmy Butler, who both finished with 14 points and 3 steals on the evening. The Bulls, who are two games over .500 for the first time since November, trail third place Toronto by only a game.
On Brooklyn’s end, controlling the board was a problem (as it seems to have been for every Bulls opponent of late), as they lost the rebound battle 45-27. Joe Johnson, their lone All-Star, struggled from the field, finishing with 11 points on 4-14 shooting. Paul Pierce (15 pts), Deron Williams (13 pts), Shaun Livingston (10 pts) and Andrei Kirilenko (8 pts, 3-3 shooting) rounded out the major scorers for the Nets, who fell to 24-27 on the season, good enough for 7th in the East heading into the break. Their biggest Achilles Heel remains playing on the road, where they are 8-16 on the season.
The Bulls, as you well know, are off for the rest of the week. They next play against the aforementioned Raptors next Wednesday at 7:00.
Player(s) of the Game: Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson.