Bulls 96, Hornets 85

After watching helplessly the previous 22 games – 15 of which

his Bulls lost, many in gut-wrenching fashion – Tyrus Thomas was

thrilled to be back on the court, helping Chicago build and protect

a lead.

Thomas had 21 points on 10 for 17 shooting, nine rebounds and

two blocked shots in a 96-85 victory over the New Orleans Hornets

on Saturday night.

“It felt like the first day of school all day,” said Thomas,

who had been out since Nov. 6 with a broken left forearm. “I had a

new backpack, supplies, everything. It was great.”

The game capped a wild week in which the Bulls lost to

Sacramento after blowing a 35-point lead, lost at New York after

almost rallying from a 22-point deficit and dealt with questions

about coach Vinny Del Negro’s job security.

“You have to learn from your mistakes but stay positive,” said

Joakim Noah, who had 17 points and 18 rebounds as the Bulls

outscored the Hornets 54-16 inside. “It just feels good right now

to get a ‘W’ – and to win by a big margin, which we hadn’t done in

a long time.”

After Thomas and Noah sparked a 42-13 surge that turned an

11-point, second-quarter deficit into a 73-55 lead late in the

third, Del Negro played Thomas for the entire fourth period.

The athletic, fourth-season forward, who has been in and out of

Del Negro’s doghouse during the last year, responded with six

points, two rebounds and boundless energy as the Bulls held on.

“He got a little winded but … it was tough to take him out

because he was so productive,” the coach said. “You saw what his

athleticism does for us.”

The previous seven weeks, Thomas saw a promising season turn

bad, as the Bulls absorbed numerous lopsided losses and late


“It’s hard to sit and watch,” he said, “especially when your

team’s struggling.”

Devin Brown scored all of his 22 points in the first half for

New Orleans, which had only nine third-quarter points and fell to

2-12 on the road.

Brown’s sixth 3-pointer in six attempts put New Orleans up 42-31

and got the United Center crowd groaning. The Bulls then started

their extended run, with Noah getting 10 points and 10 rebounds,

and Brown ended up missing the only 3-pointer he took the rest of

the way.

“They were having to help defensively because (Chris Paul) gets

in the lane,” Brown said. “In the second half, they made an

adjustment and were staying home, so those same shots just weren’t


And this time, once the Bulls got their lead, they didn’t fold.

After the Hornets’ Darren Collison scored to make it 94-85 with

1:30 to play, Noah had a rebound basket and then blocked Collison’s

layup, ending all hope of a New Orleans comeback.

“When we got the lead, I knew you guys were thinking about

that,” Luol Deng told reporters. “I thought we did a good job

even though at times we panicked a little bit.”

Paul, who had averaged 24.3 points and 10.7 assists in seven

career games against the Bulls, had 15 points and seven assists


“I can’t let us come out that sluggish (in the second half),”

Paul said. “That third quarter was just bad. What was the score,

23-9? That’s unacceptable, especially on the road. It’s my


Kirk Hinrich replaced slumping John Salmons in the starting

lineup and scored 14 points and Derrick Rose also had 14 for the


NOTES: Deng scored 12, snapping his string of 20-point games at

five. … Among those who have played in at least 20 games, Noah is

the only NBA player to have pulled down at least seven rebounds in

every game. … The Hornets had been 6-0 when Brown scored 11 or

more points.