The Bulls start off the post-all-star-game-season with a win in their last ever game against the New Orleans Hornets, who will be known as Pelicans next season.
First things first, this was a very generic game. It was not a very exciting game for the Bulls, but it was by no means bad,. The Bulls parlayed the lead they had for most of the night into a successful start to the unofficial "second half" of the season. They were bolstered (slightly) by the return of Kirk Hinrich from his elbow injury. Playing in his first game this month, the Captain finished with 5 points on 2-7 shooting and a season high 10 assists, ane he also had 2 rebounds and 3 steals. He played what amounted to very solid defense on Greivis Vasquez (11 points, 10 assists, 5-16 shooting). Vasquez had to earn all 11 of those points as none of them came inside the paint.
The Bulls shot 46% from the field tonight, and were led by their All-Stars, Luol Deng and Joakim Noah. Deng had 20 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists and 5 turnovers on 7-13 shooting. Noah was even better, finishing with 15 points, 17 rebounds (tying his third-highest total of the season), 5 assists and 3 blocks on 6-11 shooting. He struggled with his shot at first but hit an array of shots in the second half, including his left handed hook and his trademark uncontested 18 footer. Carlos Boozer rounded out the trio of Bulls in double figures, with 17 points, 10 rebounds, 3 assists and 4 steals (!) on 8-16 shooting.
The Hornets, who never trailed by more than 10 points, were led by Eric Gordon (20 points, 8-17 shooting), Anthony Davis (15 points, 10 boards, 4 steals, 3 assists), and the aforementioned Vasquez. They shot a paltry 4-17 (24%) from three and 13-20 (65%) from the line, both of which paled in comparison to the Bulls' marks 5-13 (39%) and 13-17 (77%), respectively. Al-Farouq Aminu and Ryan Anderson added 10 points each, while Jason Smith (8 points) and Brian Roberts (7 points, 3 assists) contributed off the bench for New Orleans, who fall to 19-35 on the season, good for 13th in the powerful Western Conference.
Miami is up next, followed by Charlotte and Oklahoma City. If the Bulls wish to be considered a legitimate Eastern Conference contender come playoff-time, a 2-1 record over these next three games will be crucial.
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