Bulls don't wilt sans Rose

Bulls' C.J. Watson (7) is fouled by Boston's JaJuan Johnson while trying to get off a shot.
Bulls' C.J. Watson (7) is fouled by Boston's JaJuan Johnson while trying to get off a shot. (ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Posted: February 17, 2012

CARLOS BOOZER and Luol Deng each scored 23 points, and the Chicago Bulls escaped with an 89-80 victory over the Boston Celtics last night after blowing a 16-point lead.

It was hardly an easy night for the Bulls, but they continued to pile up the wins even though reigning MVP Derrick Rose missed his fourth straight game because of lower back pain.

They struggled early before going on a big run that gave them a 16-point lead early in the third quarter. Boston came roaring back and was up 61-60 early in the fourth after Chris Wilcox' alley-oop dunk, but a 12-point run broke a 69-69 tie and sent Chicago to its seventh win in eight games.

Taj Gibson's layup 4 minutes into the quarter started the decisive rally.

While Rose was out, Kevin Garnett was back in the lineup for Boston after missing Wednesday's game against Detroit because of a hip flexor.

Rose took some free throws at the morning shootaround, but wasn't able to run. Coach Tom Thibodeau says he is "feeling a lot better," but C.J. Watson started at point guard. Thibodeau also says Richard Hamilton is "making good progress." The veteran guard remains sidelined by a right thigh injury.

In another game:

 * At Indianapolis, Danny Granger scored 32 points despite playing on a sprained left ankle and led the Indiana Pacers past the New Jersey Nets, 93-88. The Pacers (18-12) ended a season-worst five-game losing streak, thanks primarily to Granger's return. He missed Wednesday's game at Cleveland and the final three quarters of Tuesday's loss to Miami. David West had 16 points for Indiana. Deron Williams led the Nets with 29 points, and Kris Humphries had 24, but New Jersey (8-23) still lost its eighth straight.

Neither of the struggling teams could get a grip on this one through the first three quarters, but Paul George's 21-footer with 8:15 left in the game broke a 69-69 tie and started a 9-2 Pacers run. Indiana never trailed again.


*  LeBron James could picture returning one day to the place where his NBA journey began. Back in Cleveland. Imagine that. James said yesterday he would not rule out a return to the Cavaliers, a team he left as a free agent in 2010 to chase a championship with Miami.

"I don't know. I think it would be great," he said. "It would be fun to play in front of these fans again. I had a lot fun times in my 7 years here. You can't predict the future and hopefully I continue to stay healthy. I'm here as a Miami Heat player, and I'm happy where I am now, but I don't rule that out in no sense. And if I decide to come back, hopefully the fans will accept me."

* The NBA is leaving it up to the fans to determine the winner of the All-Star slam dunk contest. The league announced that there no longer will be judges in the event, which also will be reduced to one round. Fans will determine the champion by voting on NBA.com, Twitter or through text messaging.

*  Christopher Hansen, a San Francisco businessman, has unveiled a $290 proposal to pay for a new sports arena in Seattle, plus the cost of acquiring an NBA franchise to be the anchor tenant for the facility.

* A federal judge has ruled a store chain's reference to Michael Jordan in an ad-like magazine layout was constitutionally protected free speech, not an advertisement. The ruling signals the Hall of Famer's lawsuit against Jewel Food Stores may well fail.

Judge Gary Feinerman in Chicago found Jewel wasn't endeavoring to sell anything with the page featuring basketball shoes emblazoned with "23," Jordan's Bulls jersey number. In the layout published in Sports Illustrated in 2009, Jewel congratulated Jordan on his recent induction into the Basketball Hall of Fame. It included Jewel's logo.

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