Bulls grab fourth straight win
No matter how easy he's making it look, John Salmons is adamant about one thing: Don't be fooled.
Salmons scored 22 points and hit two late 3-pointers, and the Chicago Bulls pulled out a wild 112-106 victory over the Indiana Pacers on Saturday for their fourth straight win.
"They don't come easy," Salmons said.
Ben Gordon added 25 points as the Bulls matched their longest win streak in two years with a victory that featured some dramatic swings.
The Bulls trailed by 14 through the first quarter and blew a 10-point lead in the fourth. Still, they pulled out their seventh win in eight games and continued to push hard for the playoffs thanks to big plays down the stretch by Salmons, Derrick Rose and Tyrus Thomas.
The Pacers led 102-99 after Brandon Rush pulled up for a short bank shot with about 3:20 left, but Salmons answered with back-to-back 3-pointers that put Chicago ahead for good.
"At that particular time I had the ball in my hand, I was in a pretty good rhythm dribbling the ball," he said.
He thought the first one was good when it left his hand, but the second?
"It was kinda 50-50," he said, smiling while shaking side to side.
After that one went in, Rose penetrated and passed to Thomas for a jumper that made it 107-102 with 1:29 left, and both came through again after a layup by T.J. Ford. Rose drove the lane to make it 109-104 with just over a minute remaining. A rotating Thomas blocked Danny Granger's layup with 25 seconds left, then hit two free throws.
"I thought I had beaten my man, but he made a great play," Granger said. "Pretty much won the game."
It was one of seven blocks for Thomas, who also had 18 points and eight rebounds.
"Some of them got the crowd involved," he said. "Some of them gave us an extra possession, and some of them kind of disrupted what the Pacers were trying to get done."
Granger scored 32 and Rush added a career-high 29, but the Pacers suffered their sixth loss in eight games.
The Bulls were leading 92-82 after a three-point play by Rose and floater by Gordon to start the fourth quarter. Brad Miller got it back up to 10 with two free throws after Stephen Graham's layup, but the Pacers came charging back.
Granger's 3-pointer capped a 13-2 run that gave the Pacers a 97-96 lead with just over six minutes left, but Chicago did just enough to pull this one out.
"It's a lot of fun being out there with other guys who are making big plays and are taking tough shots," said Gordon, who scored 13 in the second quarter as the Bulls erased that early deficit.
Salmons came through with another big effort, hitting four of seven 3-pointers and reaching the 20-point mark for the 11th time since the trade that sent him from Sacramento along with Miller.
"The best trade of the year," Pacers coach Jim O'Brien said.
Miller scored 17 for seventh-place Chicago, which began the day percentage points ahead of Detroit in the Eastern Conference. Rose chipped in with 16 points, eight assists and nine rebounds in his return to the starting lineup. The star rookie came off the bench in Thursday's 106-87 rout of Miami after missing a game with a bruised right wrist.
The Bulls didn't have to contend with Troy Murphy, who missed his second game because of a sprained ligament in his left knee. They did, however, have to deal with Rush and Granger.
Relegated to the bench in January, Rush is making the most of his recent opportunity. After averaging 13 points and 6.5 rebounds the previous two games, the rookie scored 10 of the Pacers' first 12 points and 18 in the opening quarter.
"My teammates were able to find me, and I was making some shots," said Rush, averaging 6.9 points. "I was able to get to the hole, just play my type of game."
Notes: Rush's previous career-high was 22 points against New Jersey on Dec. 23. ... Thomas blocked a career-high eight shots against Minnesota on Jan. 3. ... Bulls F Tim Thomas played six scoreless minutes after missing a game with back spasms.