A night after finishing off the season sweep of the Miami Heat, the Chicago Bulls beat the New Orleans Hornets 85-77 at the United Center.
Derrick Rose led all scorers with 24 points. Rose also chipped in nine assists as the Bulls won their third straight game, and fifth in their last six games.
Taking on a Hornets team without their All-Star point guard Chris Paul, the Bulls had some difficulty putting New Orleans away.
"A good team finds different ways to win," Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau said. "It was a grind it out game."
Carlos Boozer added 19 points and nine rebounds, and Ronnie Brewer and Luol Deng scored 10.
Jarrett Jack, starting in Paul's place, led the Hornets with 23 points, and Marco Belinelli scored 17. David West had 11 points and 11 rebounds, but New Orleans shot just 36.3 percent.
Alone in second place after a one-point win over Miami on Sunday that gave them sole possession of second place in the Eastern Conference and a three-game sweep over the Heat, the Bulls had a tough time pulling this one out. They were leading 75-65 early in the fourth after Rose nailed a 3. But the Hornets weren't finished.
They got a jumper by Jack and a pair of baskets by Willie Green after a timeout to pull within four midway through the quarter. Jack tied it at 77 on a layup with 3:15 left, but the Hornets didn't score again.
A driving Rose crashed to the floor as his layup got blocked by West, but Noah got fouled while converting the put-back, pumping his fist after the ball went in to give the Bulls a 79-77 lead with three minutes left. He missed the free throw, but Deng hit two less then a minute later to make it a four-point game.
The teams then kept trading misses before Rose's free throws with 35 seconds made it a six-point game.
Joakim Noah then stole the ball from Jack, leading to two free throws by Kyle Korver with 25 seconds left that made it 85-77.
Notes: Hornets coach Monty Williams said the Bulls might be the league's best all-around team. And if he were choosing the MVP, Rose would probably get his vote. "Maybe the most complete team in the NBA right now," he said. "Nobody has a bench the way that bench plays. Rose is probably the MVP." ... Hornets F Trevor Ariza (strained left adductor) did not play. ... The Bulls have won six straight over New Orleans and swept them the past three years. ... Chicago has won nine straight at home, its longest streak in 13 years.
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