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Bulls top banged up Spurs

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In a rare occasion, when the Bulls took the floor on Wednesday to battle the San Antonio Spurs, the beginning of a six-game west coast road trip, they weren't the ones that were undermanned.

Joakim Noah and Kirk Hinrich returned to action as the Bulls defeated the Spurs 96-86, handing the defending the Western Conference champs their third straight loss.

The Spurs were without Manu Ginobili, Kawhai Leonard, Danny Green and Tiago Splitter.

Without the quartet, the Bulls (23-22) were able to have their way inside, outscoring San Antonio 52-26 in points in the paint. The Bulls also forced 19 turnovers, which they turned to 16 points.

Jimmy Butler scored a team-high 19 points, leading seven Bulls that finished with double figures in scoring. Carlos Boozer added 16 points and 12 rebounds. D.J. Augustin and Taj Gibson chipped in with 15 apiece and Noah, one-game back from sitting out with an illness, finished with 10 points, 10 rebounds, eight assists and four blocks.

After a back and fourth first half, the Bulls owned the second half, creating distance from their pesky opponents.

Tony Parker led the Spurs with 20 points. Tim Duncan added 17 points and 12 rebounds.

Before the game, Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau responded to chairmen Jerry Reinsdorf comments this week, stemming from a recent television interview in which he called the team "mediocre."

"Jerry owns the team so he’s entitled to say whatever he wants,’’ Thibodeau told reporters. “If that’s the way he feels … and the way I feel about our team is this: It’s that I’m really proud of them and we can do even better. So I’m not selling them short."

The Bulls will next play the New Orleans Hornets on Saturday.

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