CHICAGO, Jan 7 -- (Ticker) --
Since rookie Luol Deng
became a starter,
the Chicago Bulls have turned things around.
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Deng scored 22 points and made a series of big plays down the
stretch to lead Chicago to an 84-78 victory over the Utah Jazz.
Deng, fellow rookie Chris Duhon
and veteran Antonio Davis
inserted into the starting lineup November 24 after the Bulls
dropped their first nine games. The change immediately paid
dividends as Chicago won its first game at Utah the same day.
"I don't know what it is about playing Utah, but it sure brought
out the best in my play," Deng said. "(Coach Scott Skiles
reamed us out pretty good at halftime, and we made some good
adjustments on defense."
The trio has remained in the starting five, helping the Bulls to
a 12-9 record since their dismal start.
"We have a lot of depth on this team, so if the starters aren't
getting it done, somebody off the bench is usually ready to
contribute," Deng said.
In this one, Duhon and Davis combined for just two points, but
Deng provided a complete effort with seven rebounds, five
assists, two steals and two blocks.
"I thought Luol was good tonight," Skiles said. "He made a
couple baskets and some nice blocks. I thought he ran the floor
well. He was big."
The Jazz opened the fourth on a 12-2 run to knot the game,
70-70, but the Bulls responded with nine straight points, capped
by Deng's back-to-back jumpers. He added a steal in the final
minute to preserve a seven-point lead and later assisted on
Davis' dunk to finish the scoring.
"Our defense was the difference in the second half," Davis said.
) and Tyson (Chandler
) stepped up their game
significantly. That proved to be the difference for us."
Curry scored 21 points before fouling out in the closing minutes
and Chandler had four blocked shots and seven of his nine
rebounds in the second half.
In the first meeting between the teams, Andrei Kirilenko
20 points for Utah but injured his knee soon thereafter. The
Jazz have lost 16 of 19 without him and are 4-11 this season
against Eastern Conference opponents.
"(Kirilenko's absence) has nothing to do with it," Utah coach
said. "These guys still get paid. They get paid to
play basketball without doing crazy things."
Utah's eight-game losing streak is its worst since the 1982-83
season, when it lost nine in a row.
"We had 24 turnovers today. Some of those were just handed
right to them, some you can credit it to defense all you want,"
Sloan said. "I would rather let the 24-second clock run out
that just throw it to them. We even threw it to them on an
inbounds play, just threw it to them."
scored 12 points and grabbed 11 rebounds for Utah,
which shot just 37 percent from the field (26-of-71).
The Jazz held a 22-12 lead after the first quarter and were up
by one at halftime, 40-39. They shot just 11-of-36 after the
break, however, and trailed by as many as 14 in the third.
"They did a good job tonight," said Utah forward Carlos Boozer
who was held to 11 points and committed six turnovers. "They
just played great defense and took us out of what we were doing
well in the first period."