All of Michael Jordan’s moves lately seem to be working for the Bobcats. His old team learned firsthand on Wednesday night.
After getting a pep talk from the Charlotte owner, D.J. Augustin responded by outplaying Derrick Rose in one of his best games as a pro in the Bobcats’ 96-91 victory over the Chicago Bulls.
Augustin had 22 points, a career-best 12 assists, committed only one turnover and hit four decisive free throws down the stretch as the Bobcats won for the sixth time in eight games since Jordan fired coach Larry Brown.
Augustin also helped force Rose into a miserable 5-of-17 shooting night and ran an offense that committed only seven turnovers. It came two nights after Augustin struggled handling the ball in a win over Memphis.
”The other day MJ got mad at me for my five turnovers. He told me never to do that again and I took it to heart tonight,” Augustin said. ”I tried to make smart plays.”
Jordan approved, standing and clapping as the final seconds ticked down in Charlotte’s fourth straight win as it looks like a new team under interim coach Paul Silas.
Jordan, who fired Brown Dec. 22, put his own stamp on things this week. He attended and was vocal in practice Tuesday and at Wednesday’s shootaround.
”Who’s going to back talk him?” said Gerald Wallace, who had 14 points and seven rebounds in his return from a left ankle injury. ”When you have the best guy that ever played the game sitting there criticizing your game or helping you improve, I don’t think anybody takes it the wrong way.”
The Bulls, off to their best start since Jordan led them to their last title in 1998, fizzled late after rallying from a 17-point, second-quarter deficit on a rare off night from their star guard.
Carlos Boozer had 23 points and 14 rebounds, and Luol Deng added 22 points for Chicago, which lost for only the fifth time in 20 games in part because Rose struggled. Facing plenty of traps, he scored 17 points and had a key turnover in the final minute.
”We didn’t come out with a lot of energy and let them score 36 points in the first quarter,” Rose said. ”We gave them confidence and it was going to be a long night.”
It had to have been a rough sight seeing Jordan so happy while Tyrus Thomas tore up his former team with 17 points and 13 rebounds.
”It was a weird game,” Boozer said.
The Bobcats had to make big plays down the stretch after seeing a comfortable lead turn into an 80-75 deficit with 8:08 left.
Thomas’ reverse layup with 1:14 left put Charlotte ahead 90-89. After Rose missed a contested layup, Stephen Jackson hit a fadeaway jumper amid a bad shooting night with 34 seconds left.
Rose’s fourth turnover of the night came on the next possession when he threw a bad pass in the lane after drawing a double team. Augustin then closed it out at the free throw line.
”I think it’s all starting to come together,” Wallace said.
After running off five wins under Silas in a soft part of their schedule, Chicago serves as one of the Bobcats’ biggest wins of the season despite a hiccup after halftime.
With Deng and Rose consistently getting to the line and Jackson clanging jumpers, the Bulls dominated the third quarter. Deng’s layup off a pick-and-roll gave Chicago its first lead at 68-67 with 1:08 left.
But the Bulls, who rallied from a 12-point halftime to beat Detroit on Monday, couldn’t hold on in their third straight road loss as Jordan celebrated.
”Michael is Michael talking,” Wallace said. ”Guys respect him, obviously.”
Jordan’s tutoring seemed to spark Charlotte early. The Bobcats met little resistance inside with Kwame Brown, filling in again for Nazr Mohammed (knee), hitting his first four shots.
”We can’t continue that pattern. We have to play better from the start,” Boozer said. ”We can’t be one of those teams that has slow starts and rely on ourselves to come back. It’s something we have to clean up, and clean up fast before we get to Indiana.”
Notes: Coach Tom Thibodeau said Rose has also improved defensively, most specifically at getting over screens and challenging shots. Rose said he’s hoping to become a lockdown defender. ”I look at Kobe Bryant. He’s a guy that tries to kill you on both ends,” Rose said. … Bobcats assistant and former Bulls big man Charles Oakley was a popular guy when Chicago arrived for shootaround. ”When he goes into something he’s 100 percent committed to it,” Thibodeau said. ”I think he’s figuring out now what he wants to do.” … Deng was assessed a flagrant foul for taking down Thomas on a breakaway late in the second quarter.