If loss of desire and intensity was the expected result in the trade of Luol Deng earlier in the week, then somebody should probably send a memo to the Bulls as the team matched its season-high for consecutive wins with their fifth straight over the Charlotte Bobcats 103-97.
The win was also the eighth in the last 10 for the Bulls (17-18), who saw seven players scored in double-figures and three finish with double-doubles, led by D.J. Augustin with 20 and 12 assists. The Bulls bench outscored Charlotte’s 43-9, despite the defense allowing over 90 for the first time in the last five games.
“Not pretty,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said on the defensive play as the Bobcats shot 46 percent from the field. “The offense was good. I thought quick decisions, great ball movement, took care of the ball, low turnover and when you do that, you’re going to get good shots. “I thought Cartier (Martin, 11 points, 4-5 shooting) did a great job for a guy who just came here yesterday. D.J. was terrific and our bench play was outstanding.”
The Bulls got off to a good start on the second night of a back-to-back, but wasn’t able to truly slow down Charlotte as they got balanced efforts from Gerald Henderson and Al Jefferson in the first half. Still, they led 52-42 at halftime after a brilliant halfcourt lob from Mike Dunleavy (17 points) to Augustin to cap the second period.
Once ahead 15, the Bobcats closed the third on a 22-7 run to tie the game at 70 entering the fourth. After Charlotte took their first lead of the game early in the final period, the Bulls responded with an 11-0 run that helped them regain the lead and control of the game.
"Just playing together and moving the ball on offense," Augustin said on the team's current success. "Defensively, I think we've been playing hard. It's things we can work on and get better at, but I think overall, we've been trying to play hard on defense also."
Henderson led Charlotte with 30 points. Kemba Walker contributed 29 and Jefferson added 20 and 11 rebounds. Only three other players scored for the Bobcats.
Despite the winning eight of their last 10 and five straight to start the new year, it was a rough week for the Bulls, who had to move on quickly after Luol Deng was traded earlier in the week. They are now 3-0 since the trade last Tuesday.
“Don’t get it mistaken, we miss Lu,” Carlos Boozer said. “We’re Chicago Bulls, man. We got Bulls across our chest. We’re going to play hard every night. We’re going to practice hard every day and we play to win. Everyone in this locker room is a winner at every level and that’s the makeup of our group of guys. We’re a resilient group. We fight ‘til the end.”