Bulls 97, Hornets 88
NEW ORLEANS (AP)
Derrick Rose's latest matchup against one of the NBA's top point guards left the New Orleans Arena crowd gasping at the Chicago star's array of spinning dribbles, slashing drives and running jump shots.
Rose scored 23 points while holding Western Conference All-Star starter Chris Paul in check, and the Bulls turned a 12-point third-quarter deficit into a 97-88 victory over the New Orleans Hornets on Saturday night.
''Every night, there's a good point guard in front of him and he's been geared up to play every one of them,'' said Bulls forward Carols Boozer, who had 17 points. ''He carries us offensively, and on the defensive end he locks up as well. He's a monster, man. And I keep telling people, when it's all said and done - he's 22 - he's going to be the best one.''
Rose's dominant performance in New Orleans came one game after he scored 29 points - while matched up against Derron Williams - in the Bulls' victory in Utah on Wednesday night.
Paul came in averaging 16.5 points and 9.7 assists and had 15 points on 3 of 10 shooting and six assists against the Bulls.
''My rhythm is off. I'm missing everything I shoot at the rim. I've just got to keep shooting,'' Paul said. ''I've got to somehow, some way, find a rhythm and find a way to get some easy baskets.''
Rose downplayed his role in the victory and said his success against Paul stemmed from the team's defensive scheme.
''I think I contested all his shots and just tried to make him work for it,'' said Rose, who seemed more inclined to discuss the performance of the Bulls' reserve unit, which contributed 30 points and 20 rebounds.
''They're the reason why we won this game,'' Rose said.
Luol Deng had 14 points for the Bulls, who outscored the Hornets 25-14 in the fourth quarter to close out a five-game road trip at 3-2.
Marcus Thornton had a season-high 24 points and David West added 17 for New Orleans, which missed 13 of 39 free throws in losing for the seventh time in nine games.
Watson also turned a steal into a fast-break layup during the surge, which put Chicago ahead 89-80 with 5 minutes to go. New Orleans responded with two quick baskets, but Rose set up Boozer's inside basket with a bounce pass into the paint, then made a difficult, off-balance baseline jumper to make it 93-84 with 2:27 left.
That shot drained the life out of the crowd, which began to file out soon after, and the Hornets could not recover.
''They put pressure on us and we backed down and there's no other way to look at it,'' Hornets coach Monty Williams said. ''We have to give them credit. They didn't change anything. They just jacked up their defense. To me, that was like a playoff game and we didn't respond.''
Keith Bogans had 11 points for Chicago, which shot 51.5 percent (35 of 68) and outscored New Orleans 36-20 inside. Kurt Thomas and reserve Omer Asik each grabbed 11 rebounds for the Bulls, who outrebounded New Orleans 47-26. Chicago also made 21 of 22 free throws.
New Orleans, which shot only 40.6 (28 of 69) for the game, led by 12 when Paul baited Rose into a shooting foul behind the 3-point arc and made all three free throws to put the Hornets up 61-49 early in third quarter. Shortly after, however, Thomas' short baseline jumper started a 12-1 run highlighted by Bogans' third 3 of the game and another by Rose that made it 64-63.
Thornton checked back in and hit a 3, and the Hornets began to control the tempo again. They were unable to pull away, however, because they missed eight free throws in the third quarter alone and led only 74-72 heading into the final period.
''Missing 13 free throws on your home floor is inexcusable,'' Williams said.
Chicago finally pulled back into a 76-all tie when Rose intercepted David Andersen's pass and finished a fast break with a full-speed, spinning dribble past Thornton for a layup.
Most of the first half was close until Thornton entered in the second quarter, when he scored 14 of his points. He drained back-to-back 3s on the heels of a long-range shot by Paul during an 11-0 run that West capped with a tough turnaround, putting New Orleans ahead 53-42 at halftime.
Notes: Chicago's only missed free throw came on an airball by Brewer late in the third quarter. ... Chicago C Joakim Noah missed his 28th game as he recovers from surgery to repair a tendon in his right hand. ... The loss was only New Orleans' second in 13 home games against the Eastern Conference. ... The Hornets had only two offensive rebounds, tying a franchise all-time low.