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Basketball / Sports

Bulls win slow, low-scoring game in Charlotte

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- A magician's act took longer than scheduled at halftime Saturday night at Time Warner Cable Arena, forcing players to warm up shooting in the dark.

Insert your own punch line here.

In a sludge match only a defensive purist could love, the Bulls pulled away late for an 89-87 victory over the Bobcats.

This is the type of game coaches Tom Thibodeau and Steve Clifford may have dreamed about when they were assisting Jeff Van Gundy's Knicks teams in the 1990. First one to 80 wins. The Bobcats shot 42 percent and the Bulls, whose point total was padded by intentional fouling at the end, 40.3 percent.

"As long as we come out on top, I love it," Thibodeau said.

At least there was D.J. Augustin, who scored 15 of his season-high 28 points in the fourth to help the Bulls gain traction in a game that featured 14 lead changes and 10 ties. Augustin knocked down 6 of 12 3-pointers.

Afterward, the Bulls' latest scrap-heap savior claimed he took no extra satisfaction from beating the team that rescinded its qualifying offer after he had played reasonably well here as a lottery pick. His emotional reaction following one fourth-quarter 3-pointer might suggest otherwise.

"It's a business," Augustin said. "I'm with the Bulls now and that's all that matters. I'm just happy to get the win."

Joakim Noah's streak of double-digit rebounding games grew to 16 games when he picked up a loose ball after Anthony Tolliver slipped and fell in the waning seconds. The center flirted with his fourth career triple-double, finishing with 11 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists.

Al Jefferson led the Bobcats with 32 points and 13 rebounds, sinking a 3-pointer at the final buzzer.

In fact, Clifford's strategy in the final minute -- aided by the Bulls' missing three free throws -- made for an intriguing finish. The Bobcats scored 13 points in the final 27.2 seconds, and the Bulls scored nine in the final 31.5.

"The game is never over, not in the NBA," Thibodeau said.

Before that, Augustin had appeared to make it over with his aggressive start to the fourth.

"I just let the game come to me," he said. "We just kept running our pick-and-roll stuff, kept playing on defense."

The Bulls received subtle contributions from Mike Dunleavy and Tony Snell. Dunleavy hit double figures for the fourth straight game and tied a season-high with eight rebounds. Snell knocked down two fourth-quarter 3-pointers and posted three of the Bulls' 11 steals.

In short, the defense responded after Friday's beatdown by the Clippers despite a 3 a.m. arrival and a matter-of-fact afternoon film session.

"This team is great. They know," Thibodeau said. "We talked about what happened (Friday) night and what we had to do (Saturday). That's the best part about this team. They have great pride. They're going to bounce back."

(c)2014 Chicago Tribune

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