Playing the last game before the All-Star break, the Chicago Bulls routed the Milwaukee Bucks 110-91 on Wednesday night at the United Center. The Bulls improved to 27-8, 13-2 at home, this season.
The Bulls placed six players in double figures against their Central division rival Bucks (13-20). Joakim Noah dropped the first triple-double of his NBA career, scoring 13 points, grabbing 13 rebounds and dishing out 10 assists -- and, most impressively, the 6-foot-11 center notched the feat with 38 seconds left in the third quarter. Carlos Boozer poured in a game-high-tying 20 points on 9-for-12 shooting, while Derrick Rose and Luol Deng scored 16 apiece. With Rose back in the lineup, Ronnie Brewer had his second straight strong performance, putting up 15 points. In another pleasant sight for the Bulls, Kyle Korver scored 11 points, making 5-of-8 shots.
As Rose had a laid back night, Noah made plays on both ends of the court and put forth his best effort of the season. He capitalized on the Bucks' trapping of Rose from the outset. He wasn't happy with his performance in Saturday's loss to the New Jersey Nets and has elevated his game over the last two games. The Bulls racked up 32 assists on 43 baskets for the game, shooting 54.4 percent from the field, and had a whopping 52 points in the paint. They also outrebounded the Andrew Bogut-less Bucks 49-29.
The Bulls -- who were minus C.J. Watson for the second game in a row -- dominated the Bucks on the stat sheet all across the board in the first half, leading 64-53. They had 34 points in the paint and outrebounded Milwaukee 26-13. Chicago piled up 17 assists on 24 baskets and shot 55.8 percent from the field but committed nine turnovers, which the visitors scored 16 points off of. Instead of allowing the opponent to hang around in the second half -- as the Bulls did in Monday afternoon's 90-79 win over the Atlanta Hawks -- coach Tom Thibodeau's bunch continued to pour it on and extended their lead in the third quarter.
The Bucks went on a 6-2 run to get within 72-63 with just under seven minutes left in the third when Thibodeau called a timeout. The reigning Coach of the Year's squad responded with a 21-12 run to take a 93-75 lead through three frames. Deng said after Monday's game that the Bulls haven't been beating foes like they had a couple weeks ago. But they did just that against the Bucks and never looked back.
Throughout the past two days, the Bulls as a whole repeatedly talked about the importance of ending the first half of the season -- in terms of All-Star Weekend -- on a strong note in order to carry the momentum into the stretch run in this marathon, 66-game schedule. While Thibodeau will never be content with his team, the fact that the Bulls have one of the best records in the league has to sit well with Chicago coaches, players and fans given that free-agent signing Rip Hamilton has missed more games (24) than he's played (11) -- not to mention that Watson, Rose and Deng have sat out 12, 10 and seven contests, respectively.
Next up, the Bulls head into the All-Star break and do not play until Tuesday night against the New Orleans Hornets (8-25) -- good for five days off in between games. Rose, Deng and Thibodeau (along with his staff) will represent the team at the 2012 NBA All-Star Game on Sunday night in Orlando, Fla.