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Monday, March 14, 2011

Jordan watches Bulls rout

CHICAGO (AP) Right from the start, Joakim Noah could sense it.

News photo
Up in the air: Utah's Al Jefferson (left) and Chicago's Keith Bogans compete for a loose ball during the Bulls' win on Saturday. AP PHOTO

Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen were on hand to celebrate that first championship, so he knew this was no ordinary game.

It was no ordinary performance, either.

With the past champions watching, the Chicago Bulls again looked like they're bent on claiming their own spot in franchise history.

Derrick Rose and Luol Deng each scored 26 points, and Chicago ran away with its 13th win in 15 games, all but grabbing a share of the Eastern Conference lead with an easy 118-100 victory over the Utah Jazz on Saturday.

Rose scored 17 points in a blistering first quarter as the Bulls grabbed a 37-17 lead, and Chicago set a franchise record with 18 3-pointers while pulling within percentage points of Boston.

"It's huge," Noah said. "We understand that."

It was a championship-level performance — in the first half, at least — on a night when Chicago celebrated the 20th anniversary of its first title. With Jordan, Pippen and other players and coaches from that team on hand for a halftime ceremony, the Bulls put on a show the old-timers could appreciate.

They led by as much as 31 early in the third before the Jazz pulled within 13 in the fourth quarter, and although coach Tom Thibodeau wasn't thrilled with the defense in the second half, Chicago still put on quite a show.

The loudest cheers of the night were for Jordan during that halftime ceremony, and he couldn't resist predicting six more championships for Chicago.

"You've still got to go out there and stay hungry, stay driven," Noah said. "Everything that's happened so far is because of hard work, and we've got to keep doing it."

Lakers 96, Mavericks 91

In Dallas, Kobe Bryant overcame a sore ankle to score 16 points for Los Angeles.

Andrew Bynum had 22 points for the Lakers. Shawn Marion and Dirk Nowitzki each had 25 for the Mavericks, only a half-game ahead of Los Angeles for second place in the Western Conference.

Spurs 115, Rockets 107

In Houston, Tony Parker scored 21 points and helped NBA-leading San Antonio hold off the Rockets.

Manu Ginobili added 19 points and Antonio McDyess had 12 points and 12 rebounds for the Spurs.

Heat 118, Grizzlies 85

In Miami, Dwyane Wade blocked four shots in a dazzling 55-second span shortly after tipoff and the Heat rolled past Memphis for their second straight victory.

It was one of Miami's top defensive displays of the season, holding the Grizzlies to 39-percent shooting and forcing Memphis into missing its final 10 shots of the first half.

Nuggets 131, Pistons 101

In Denver, J.R. Smith scored 26 of his season-high 31 points in the second half for the Nuggets.

Hornets 115, Kings 103

In New Orleans, Chris Paul returned from a concussion and scored a season-high 33 points and added 15 assists, seven rebounds and five steals for the Hornets.

Hawks 91, Trail Blazers 82

In Atlanta, Jeff Teague matched a career high with 24 points, Jamal Crawford added 20 and Atlanta snapped a four-game slide with a victory over Portland.

Clippers 122, Wizards 101

In Washington, Blake Griffin scored all of his 26 points in the first half for Los Angeles.

Bucks 102, 76ers 74

In Milwaukee, Andrew Bogut scored 17 points and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute had 14 points, 12 rebounds and five steals.

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