Notebook: Bulls 96, Hornets 87

Posted Feb 19, 2013 11:44 PM

Bradley Handwerger, for

THE FACTS: The Chicago Bulls began the stretch run of the season by holding off the New Orleans Hornets 96-87 Tuesday night in which they pulled away for good in the fourth quarter.

The trio of Carlos Boozer, Luol Deng and Joakim Noah carried the Bulls, combining for 52 points. Noah added 17 rebounds while Boozer contributed 10 boards.

Twice the Hornets (19-35) pulled to within one point in the fourth quarter, first at 76-75 on Brian Roberts' 26-foot 3-pointer. After two Nate Robinson free throws pushed the Bulls' lead back to three points, New Orleans' Jason Smith knocked down a 15-footer to get the Hornets back to within a point.

But an 8-2 run by Chicago put the game out of reach and Chicago (31-22) got a jump on its post-All-Star break push for a home-court advantage series in the Eastern Conference playoffs. They entered the night just a half-game behind the Brooklyn Nets for fourth place despite starting February just 2-5.

New Orleans lost in spite of double-doubles from both Anthony Davis (15 points, 10 rebounds) and Greivis Vasquez (11 points, 10 assists).

The Hornets, who had won four of five heading into the All-Star break, now must travel to Cleveland for a game Wednesday night. They won't have guard Eric Gordon, who scored 20 points Tuesday, because he's still not playing the second game of back-to-backs as the team slowly brings him back from a nagging knee injury.

QUOTABLE: "Down the stretch you've got to make big plays, got to be five guys tied together. And I think we did that."

-- Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau

THE STAT: 9 -- Hornets coach Monty Williams said before the game that New Orleans' success hinged on taking care of the basketball. And his team did. At least, it did until the fourth quarter. Nine turnovers in the final 12 minutes, including seven in the final eight, changed the complexion of the game after New Orleans had pulled to within one point.

TURNING POINT: A timeout with 1:59 remaining in the game turned the game. New Orleans' Al-Farouq Aminu had just barreled into the lane, running into Chicago's Kirk Hinrich and knocking him over. With Chicago holding onto a 92-82 lead, the foul would have sent Aminu to the line after a timeout. But the officials conferred and overturned the call and the Hornets' last chance all but vanished as they lost an important possession in the final two minutes.

QUOTABLE II: "We just couldn't really punish them back. That's a physical team. Their big guys played extremely physical."

-- Vasquez on Chicago's intensity

HOT: Chicago's Noah came through with a big effort in every phase of the game. He finished with 15 points on 6-for-11 shooting, grabbed 17 rebounds, had five assists and added three blocks shots. His presence helped give Chicago an advantage in rebounds throughout the game.

NOT: The Hornets' Ryan Anderson entered Tuesday's game as the NBA's leader in 3-point field goals. But he was quiet against Chicago, going just 2-for-11 from the floor, including 0-for-4 from beyond the arc.

NOTABLE: Noah finished with his 27th double-double of the season and his 17 rebounds were an opponent high against the Hornets. ... New Orleans' Vasquez had his 21st double-double of the season. He now leads all guards in the NBA in double-doubles. ... The Hornets' Gordon finished with 20 points, the eighth time in 19 games he has played to record at least that many points.

UP NEXT: For the Hornets, Wednesday @ Cleveland, Friday vs. Dallas, Sunday vs. Sacramento. For the Bulls, Thursday vs. Miami, Friday @ Charlotte, Sunday @ Oklahoma City.