Carlos Boozer, Luol Deng and Rip Hamilton all scored over 20 points as the Bulls- down four players- still had plenty to beat the Bobcats Saturday night.
Rose missed his fourth straight game (sprained big toe), Noah (a late scratch) and Gibson both sat out with a sprained ankle, and JL3 missed the game with a groin strain.
It certainly didn't matter on this night, as the Bulls three most veteran regulars did most of the damage- with a little bit of help from Omer Asik, who made his first career start a memorable one.
Boozer- 23 points, 9 rebounds, 3 steals
Deng- 22 points (9/18 FG, 3/5 on 3's), 8 rebounds, 4 assists
Hamilton- 20 points on 9/15 FG was his highest-scoring game as a Bull
Asik could not have possibly performed any better in his first NBA start, having a career night- he played 38:36 (which shattered his previous career-high of 31:27) and grabbed 15 rebounds (one off his previous career best). He added a career-high three steals, plus six points and two blocked shots.
Veteran journeyman Mike James- the 4th string PG who was playing in the D-League a week ago- came off the bench to contribute 9 points (4/6 FG, 1/1 3-pt) and a game-high 10 assists in only 16:31 on the floor.
James and starter CJ Watson (11 points, 9 assists and two steals) had more assists (19) than the entire Bobcat team (18).
Gerald Henderson (22 points), Byron Mullens (17) and Cory Higgins (10) were the only Charlotte players who scored in double figures. Mullens scored 10 of his points in the first quarter and wasn't much of a factor after that.
The game was actually close for the first half, in fact the Bobcats led 41-39 at the three minute mark. But CJ Watson's 3-pointer with 2:53 left started an 11-2 Bulls run to finish the half, and Charlotte never lead again.
The Bobcats tried to stay close, cutting the lead to 50-47 two minutes into the second half. But Boozer (15 points in the 3rd), Hamilton (10) and Deng (five) scored all 30 of the Bulls points in the third quarter to make sure the Bulls didn't let this one get away from them.
James then took over- he hit a 3, a finger roll and a runner in scoring the Bulls' first seven points of the 4th quarter to put the Bulls up 87-72, and Charlotte never threatened again.
The Bulls are now 15-3 on the year, which is shocking considering all the road games and all the injuries. It's starting to look like this team might just coast into late May, where an Eastern Conference Finals rematch with the Heat seems inevitable.
Their next game is Monday night when New Jersey comes to the UC for a 7:00 CT tip-off.
Check back later for the Bullsville Radio Post-Game Show, I'll have a full recap and all of the highlights from Chuck Swirsky and Bill Wennington.