Chicago 107, Cleveland 96

CHICAGO, March 6 (AP) -- LeBron James was at it again. Then, the Bulls swarmed him.

Ben Gordon and Luol Deng scored 23 points apiece, and Chicago overcame James' 39 to beat the Cleveland Cavaliers 107-96 Thursday night.

The Bulls went on a 17-point run early in the third quarter to grab a 66-53 lead, and Gordon scored nine straight during a 51-second burst late in the period to make it a 17-point game. That was enough to give Chicago back-to-back wins for the first time since late December and offset another strong effort by James.

"So much has happened during the season, but we've got to stick with it and keep playing,'' Deng said. "It's all about a rhythm.''

James certainly had it early on.

Cleveland's superstar made it look easy while scoring 26 in the first half, after stealing the show in New York the previous night with 50 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds during a 119-105 victory - a performance that left the crowd chanting "MVP!''

He hit 13 of 27 shots overall but was just 3-of-12 in the second half. The Bulls attributed the drop-off to a tighter defense, and although James acknowledged they were "a little more aggressive,'' he also said, "I took shots that I know I can make, but I missed.''

Compounding matters was the fact that his teammates weren't converting.

"We've got to dig down deep and find out who we want to be,'' coach Mike Brown said. "Play 110 to 115 on the road and win sometimes and look pretty winning? Or do we want to be a playoff team that's going to go far in the playoffs and have a chance to compete for an NBA championship? Get ugly and dirty sometimes by getting stops first and figure out how to score second. It's very concerning for me right now.''

The Cavaliers got 15 points from Devin Brown and 14 from Wally Szczerbiak, but that wasn't enough to overcome Chicago's balance.

Former Bull Ben Wallace had a quiet night. He finished with two points and 10 rebounds in his first appearance at the United Center and second against Chicago since being traded to Cleveland for Larry Hughes and Drew Gooden in a three-team deal. And he got outplayed by rookie Joakim Noah, who grabbed a career-high 20 rebounds while scoring 13 points.

"I had some great experiences here,'' said Wallace, who reportedly clashed with Noah. "Unfortunately, things didn't work out this season like we would have liked to, but now I'm OK.''

The Bulls outscored the Cavaliers 34-16 in the third quarter with Gordon, Deng and Hughes leading the way.

Deng had eight in the period, while Hughes scored seven of his 12 during that 17-point run.

Gordon did his damage during a 51-second stretch late in the quarter, scoring nine to turn an eight-point lead into an 80-63 advantage and sending the Bulls to their second straight win. That matches a season-high, but extending it to three straight will be tough, considering they visit Boston on Friday.

"We are starting to figure out our strengths and weaknesses,'' said Kirk Hinrich, who scored six points. "We are starting to get some momentum and this is a big win.''

Notes: Bulls F Tyrus Thomas would not reveal his reasons for skipping Wednesday's practice, but said a recent reduction in playing time had nothing to do with it. Thomas was a no-show after playing just under nine foul-plagued minutes in Tuesday's win over Memphis, drawing a two-game suspension from the team. Thomas said he had a "nice, long conversation'' with interim coach Jim Boylan that "broke some barriers.'' ... Boylan picked up a technical foul late in the second quarter, after Noah was called for offensive interference.

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