After giving up the most points and suffering the worst loss of Tom Thibodeau's coaching era on Thursday in Denver, the Bulls had little time to rest before taking on Utah late Friday night.
As far as defensive redemption goes, they struggled to stop Jazz center Al Jefferson. He scored 12 straight points and hit 8 straight shots midway through the second half to help Utah erase a 12-point deficit.
Down the stretch, though, another big man came alive. Carlos Boozer, who spent six seasons with the Jazz, scored 11 points in the final five minutes, lifting the Bulls to a 93-89 victory at Utah.
The Bulls (30-20) finished their season-high six-game road trip with a 3-3 record. That's not bad, considering all six opponents have winning records.
“That's what we needed. We needed to bounce back,” Thibodeau told reporters after the game. “We took a punch last night (in Denver), got up today and we fought. That's what you've got to do.”
Boozer was in foul trouble early and picked up a technical in the fourth quarter. But he finished with a team-high 19 points. Nate Robinson added 18, Luol Deng 15 and Taj Gibson 14.
Jefferson scored a season-high 32 points. When his 12-point run was complete, Utah led 77-73 early in the fourth quarter.
The Jazz stayed hot and led 83-79 with 3:57 left when Paul Millsap hit a jumper. Boozer answered with a jumper, a driving lay in, then 3 free throws to put the Bulls ahead 86-83 with 59 seconds left.
When the Bulls' double-teamed Jefferson late in the game, his teammates couldn't deliver. Utah (28-23) scored 39 points in the second half.
“I thought we made plays down the stretch,” Thibodeau added. “Obviously, we have to clean up a lot of stuff on our defense. But it was good to get a win. They're a tough team that's playing well. They're big inside. I thought they had their way with us early in the game inside, in the paint. our ball pressure has to be better. Our help has to be better.”
The Bulls' defense could have been better early. Utah shot 50 percent from the field in the first quarter and scored 50 points in the first half.
The Bulls opened a lead, though, thanks mostly to a Robinson explosion early in the second quarter. He scored 8 points in three possessions to send the Bulls ahead 39-31 and the lead eventually hit 12. The Bulls scored just 11 points in the third quarter and headed to the fourth tied 69-69.
Joakim Noah looked more like his usual self in his second game back after missing three with plantar fasciitis in his right foot. Marco Belinelli returned to action after missing the Denver game with a sprained ankle.
There was nothing new on the trade rumors featuring Boozer and Toronto's Andrea Bargnani. The Bulls would be interested in moving Boozer if they could trim the payroll, but the Raptors appear to have little interest in taking on Boozer's $32 million over the next two seasons.
Toronto is open to trading Bargnani, but probably not for Boozer.
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