Boozer stays hot, leads Bulls past Cavaliers

Caption
The Bulls' Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah talk during a break in the first half Monday against the Cleveland Cavaliers at the United Center. The Bulls won, 118-92. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

CHICAGO – The Bulls have been perfect in the New Year, winning all three of their games.

“We had a tough last couple weeks of 2012,” Boozer said. “The new year, we’ve got a couple of resolutions – the biggest one is getting more wins.”

The Bulls are doing just that.

Boozer had 24 points and 11 rebounds to lead the Bulls to a 118-92 rout of the Cleveland Cavaliers on Monday night.

It was the third straight game that Boozer has eclipsed 20 points. This time he did it against the team that drafted him in 2002.

“I’m just playing off my teammates,” he said. “We work hard together. We’re hanging out together – it’s like a college team.

“Games like this are fun because everybody played so great. We like moments like this. We wish all the games could be like this.”

Joakim Noah added 11 points and 11 rebounds while Luol Deng had 19 points and seven assists for the Bulls, who beat the Cavaliers for an 11th straight time.

The Bulls (19-13), who posted a season-high in points, moved to 11-1 when Boozer and Noah have double-doubles.

Dion Waiters led Cleveland (8-28) with 18 points. C.J. Miles and Kyrie Irving had 15 points apiece.

“They come out with a different aggression that our guys have to get used to,” Irving said. “They play like a playoff team every single night. That’s what you get out of a Bulls team.”

The Bulls turned a close game into a rout in the second half by dominating the offensive glass and forcing turnovers. Shooting 53.7 percent from the field and hitting 10 of 14 3-pointers didn’t hurt, either.

“We’re taking the right (3s),” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. “They’re in rhythm now, that’s the big thing. It’s off ball movement, hitting the paint, coming out, the extra pass.they’re rhythm 3s.”

The Bulls’ bench, which has also been a glaring weak spot most of the season, helped stabilize the offense as Chicago overcame an early 10-point deficit. Taj Gibson had 18 points in reserve, and Marco Belinelli added 15 as Chicago broke the 100-point barrier for the first time since Christmas Day.

Cleveland had won three of its last four on the road. The Cavaliers haven’t beaten the Bulls since March 19, 2010.

“They’ve just got our number,” Cavaliers coach Byron Scott said. “They feel very confident and comfortable playing against us. From a physical standpoint they’re just much more physical and aggressive than we are right now.”

Tristan Thompson continued to thrive in relief of Anderson Varejao, who missed his 10th straight game due to a right knee contusion. Thompson scored 14 points and grabbed eight rebounds. It’s just the third time in 10 games he failed to record a double-double.

Irving and Miles each scored nine first-quarter points as Cleveland jumped out to a 30-22 lead, leading by as many as 10.

Belinelli had 13 points in the second quarter to jumpstart the struggling Bulls offense. Gibson added 11 first-half points as Chicago took a three-point advantage into the break.

The Bulls’ defense also seemed to kick in as Irving was held scoreless in the second quarter, and Miles was limited to three points.

Irving had four assists in the first quarter, and only two the rest of the game.

“We have to make him work,” Thibodeau said. “He did miss some shots he normally makes. Against a guy like that you need your whole team. We were fortunate.”

Miles left in the third quarter due to back spasms and did not return.

“I’m all right,” Miles said. “I did it in the first quarter. I was able to keep it loose the first half. At halftime it just kind of got to me. I couldn’t really get it to open back up and get loose.”

Notes: Scott had no update on Varejao, but remained hopeful he would return to action soon. “We’ll see when we get back if he’s available to practice tomorrow and we’ll go from there,” he said. ... Scott said he “hadn’t heard” rumors that F Omri Casspi, who had seen just one minute of action in the previous 13 games, had demanded a trade. “It’s nothing he’s done to get put in this position,” Scott said. “This is all based on my beliefs with the other two guys (Alonzo Gee and Miles) at the three spot.”

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