NEW ORLEANS -- Count Pelicans coach Monty Williams among those not surprised the depleted Bulls have not fallen apart. He said it's all about the "atmosphere" Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau creates.
Williams got to know his Bulls counterpart over the summer when they assisted Mike Krzyzewski for a Team USA minicamp.
Williams said Thibodeau uses sets Carlos Boozer thrived on in Utah and bread-and-butter plays from Mike Dunleavy's 12-year career.
"He is smart enough not to out-trick himself," Williams said. "He goes with what works."
It all had been working for the Bulls, who entered Saturday night's game at New Orleans Arena having won 14 of their last 20 -- and nine of the victories came without help from Derrick Rose or Luol Deng.
But the Bulls took a step back in the Big Easy, falling, 88-79, to a Pelicans team that got major production from Anthony Davis. The South Side native finished with 24 points, eight rebounds and six blocks, making a mockery of the Western Conference All-Star team selections that excluded him.
Davis now has totaled 76 points, 34 rebounds and 21 rejections in his last three games -- all Pelicans victories.
The Bulls shot just 38.6 percent and committed 17 turnovers in their third night near Bourbon Street.
"We played a low-energy game," Thibodeau said. "They beat us to loose balls and we fumbled a lot of rebounds that they ended up laying back in."
Joakim Noah agreed, saying, "The team with the better edge in this league has a huge advantage. Today it was (the Pelicans)."
New Orleans native D.J. Augustin led the Bulls with 23 points, while Boozer, Dunleavy and Kirk Hinrich combined for just 11 points from the field, shooting 5 of 19.
Noah had 14 points and 16 rebounds, his 18th straight double-digit rebounding game, a career high.
Davis, returning from a one-game absence with a dislocated left finger, began the night with a rejection of Boozer that drew "oohs" from the crowd. Later he hit an awkward drive with a foul on Noah for a three-point play, setting the stage for a memorable third-quarter duel.
Shortly after slamming one down with two hands, Davis stuffed Noah on a jumper. Later he fouled Noah hard, ensuring the Bulls center would have to earn his two points at the line.
"He's a great player," Noah said. "Hit a lot of shots, was active defensively. Great player."
Noah took a hard fall in the fourth quarter that left some blood on the floor. Trainers got him back on the floor by putting a bandage on his chin that almost looked like masking tape. Noah was set to get stitches after the game.
Davis rejected at least four shots for the sixth straight game, saying: "My teammates are doing a great job of not fouling, and I'm just trying to protect the rim."
In the final quarter, Davis hit an 18-foot jumper while getting hacked by Noah to give his team a 78-64 lead. Noah attempted a spin move, and Davis took the ball away.
No wonder that before the game, Taj Gibson said this of Davis' improvement since his rookie season: "It's a sight to see."
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