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Chicago 84, Utah 78
Bulls Upend Utah
CHICAGO, Jan 7 -- (Ticker) -- Since rookie Luol Deng became a starter, the Chicago Bulls have turned things around.
Deng scored 22 points and made a series of big plays down the stretch to lead Chicago to an 84-78 victory over the Utah Jazz.
Deng, fellow rookie Chris Duhon and veteran Antonio Davis were inserted into the starting lineup November 24 after the Bulls dropped their first nine games. The change immediately paid dividends as Chicago won its first game at Utah the same day.
"I don't know what it is about playing Utah, but it sure brought out the best in my play," Deng said. "(Coach Scott Skiles) reamed us out pretty good at halftime, and we made some good adjustments on defense."
The trio has remained in the starting five, helping the Bulls to a 12-9 record since their dismal start.
"We have a lot of depth on this team, so if the starters aren't getting it done, somebody off the bench is usually ready to contribute," Deng said.
In this one, Duhon and Davis combined for just two points, but Deng provided a complete effort with seven rebounds, five assists, two steals and two blocks.
"I thought Luol was good tonight," Skiles said. "He made a couple baskets and some nice blocks. I thought he ran the floor well. He was big."
The Jazz opened the fourth on a 12-2 run to knot the game, 70-70, but the Bulls responded with nine straight points, capped by Deng's back-to-back jumpers. He added a steal in the final minute to preserve a seven-point lead and later assisted on Davis' dunk to finish the scoring.
"Our defense was the difference in the second half," Davis said. "Eddy (Curry) and Tyson (Chandler) stepped up their game significantly. That proved to be the difference for us."
Curry scored 21 points before fouling out in the closing minutes and Chandler had four blocked shots and seven of his nine rebounds in the second half.
In the first meeting between the teams, Andrei Kirilenko scored 20 points for Utah but injured his knee soon thereafter. The Jazz have lost 16 of 19 without him and are 4-11 this season against Eastern Conference opponents.
"(Kirilenko's absence) has nothing to do with it," Utah coach Jerry Sloan said. "These guys still get paid. They get paid to play basketball without doing crazy things."
Utah's eight-game losing streak is its worst since the 1982-83 season, when it lost nine in a row.
"We had 24 turnovers today. Some of those were just handed right to them, some you can credit it to defense all you want," Sloan said. "I would rather let the 24-second clock run out that just throw it to them. We even threw it to them on an inbounds play, just threw it to them."
Mehmet Okur scored 12 points and grabbed 11 rebounds for Utah, which shot just 37 percent from the field (26-of-71).
The Jazz held a 22-12 lead after the first quarter and were up by one at halftime, 40-39. They shot just 11-of-36 after the break, however, and trailed by as many as 14 in the third.
"They did a good job tonight," said Utah forward Carlos Boozer, who was held to 11 points and committed six turnovers. "They just played great defense and took us out of what we were doing well in the first period."