Bulls get post Christmas gift from Noah(17 pts,18 boards)-beat Hornets

Tyrus Thomas returned from injury to score 21 points, Joakim Noah added 17 points and 18 rebounds, and the Bulls capped an eventful week with a 96-85 victory over the New Orleans Hornets on Saturday night.Thomas, back after missing 22 games with a broken left forearm, was active from the moment he entered to a nice ovation 3:09 into the game. He finished 10 for 17 from the floor and also had nine rebounds.Kirk Hinrich replaced slumping John Salmons in the starting lineup and scored 14 points and Derrick Rose also had 14 for the Bulls, who on Monday blew a 35-point, second-half lead in losing to Sacramento. The next night, they fell to New York despite erasing most of a 22-point deficit.And coach Vinny Del Negro spent much of the week dealing with rumors that he soon would be fired.Devin Brown scored all of his 22 points in the first half for New Orleans, which had only nine third-quarter points and fell to 2-12 on the road.Brown’s sixth 3-pointer in six attempts gave the Hornets a 42-31 lead with seven minutes left in the half and got the United Center crowd grumbling.The Bulls then outscored New Orleans 42-13 over the next 18 minutes to take a 73-55 lead late in the third quarter. Noah had 10 points and 10 rebounds during the surge.This time, the Bulls didn’t collapse, holding a double-digit lead most of the fourth quarter. After the Hornets’ Darren Collison scored to make it 94-85 with 1:30 to play, Noah had a rebound basket and then blocked Collison’s layup, ending all hope of a New Orleans comeback.Chris Paul, who had averaged 24.3 points and 10.7 assists in seven career games against the Bulls, had 15 points and seven assists Saturday.


Luol Deng scored 12 points, snapping his string of 20-point games at five. … Among those who have played in at least 20 games, Noah is the only NBA player to have pulled down at least seven rebounds in every game. … The Hornets had been 6-0 when Brown scored 11 or more points.

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