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Thomas back with victorious vengeance
By Mike McGraw | Daily Herald Staff

The Bulls' Tyrus Thomas defends Tuesday against Roy Hibbert of the Pacers. Back after a one-game suspension, Thomas had 9 points and 7 rebounds.

 

Associated Press

Chicago Bulls' Luol Deng, right, draws the foul as he crashes into Indiana Pacers' Dahntay Jones in the second half in Indianapolis, Tuesday.

 

Associated Press

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Published: 2/9/2010 9:06 PM | Updated: 2/9/2010 11:53 PM

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Mike McGraw's game tracker

Bulls 109, Pacers 101

T-time a winner: Tyrus Thomas not only came back strong from his one-game suspension, he might have been the most valuable Bull in this road victory. Thomas had 9 points and 7 rebounds in 28 minutes, while making several key plays when the Bulls took command in the fourth quarter.

Playing 'D' in Indy: After falling behind 77-66 with 5:35 left in the third, the Bulls decided to turn up the defense. Indiana scored on its first possession of the fourth quarter to go up 88-81, then hit 4 of 18 shots the rest of the way.

Three score: The Bulls had three 20-point scorers in this one. Luol Deng tallied 14 of his team-high 23 points in the first quarter. Derrick Rose and John Salmons added 21 each.

Bulls game day

Bulls vs. Orlando Magic at the United Center, 7 p.m.

TV: Comcast SportsNet

Radio: WMVP 1000-AM

Update: If the Bulls make it back through the snow from Indiana, the defending Eastern Conference champion Magic will be waiting. One of the Bulls' best home wins of the season came against Orlando on Jan. 2. Derrick Rose scored 30 points in the 101-93 win, while Magic center Dwight Howard had just 9 points and 12 rebounds. Brad Miller got most of the minutes at center that night because Joakim Noah was in foul trouble. Orlando (35-17) has won nine of its last 11.

Next: Tuesday vs. New York Knicks at the United Center, 7 p.m.

There have been plenty of tumultuous moments during Tyrus Thomas' four seasons with the Bulls.

But one thing has held true since his rookie year - when Thomas plays well, the Bulls usually win.

On Tuesday at Indiana, Thomas turned last weekend's team-imposed one game suspension into a positive by producing 9 points and 7 rebounds in 28 minutes of action. He also had several key plays when the Bulls took command in the fourth quarter of a 109-101 victory at Conseco Fieldhouse.

The Bulls ended up with three 20-point scorers. Forward Luol Deng had 23, while Derrick Rose and John Salmons scored 21 each. The Bulls shot 50.6 percent from the field as a team and went to the foul line 33 times.

"Rose in the open court was the difference in the basketball game," Pacers coach Jim O'Brien said. "He attacks like a running back. There is no point guard in the league that can guard him one on one."

The Bulls (25-25) can head into the all-star break above .500 if they can make it through the snow to the United Center and beat Orlando on Wednesday. This will be the third time in eight days they've played the second leg of back-to-back games against a team that had the previous night off.

After a stretch of atrocious play midway through the third quarter, the Bulls found themselves trailing 77-66 when center Solomon Jones drained a jumper with 5:35 left in the third.

Indiana was ahead 92-85 when Troy Murphy tipped in a shot with 7:50 remaining. But the Bulls finished the game on a 24-9 run and forced the Pacers to shoot 5-for-19 from the field in the fourth quarter.

After Murphy's tip, the Bulls scored 7 straight points and tied the score when Thomas dished off to Taj Gibson for a slam dunk.

While Thomas forced Indiana's 7-foot-2 center Roy Hibbert into a pair of missed shots, the Bulls took the lead on a Salmons bank shot and jumper from Rose. Thomas drained a 20-foot jumper off a pass from Rose to make it 98-94 with 5:03 left.

With the lead at 2 points, Salmons scored on a drive. Then Rose and Brad Miller trapped Pacers guard Earl Watson on the baseline and stole the ball. Rose pushed it upcourt and found Deng for a fast-break dunk that made it 103-97 with 1:56 remaining.

"I felt pretty good tonight," said Salmons, who hit 7 of 10 shots. "I wanted to attack the rim as much as possible. I feel that by doing that, I can take a lot of pressure off Derrick Rose so he doesn't have to make all the plays for us. He's been doing a great job of that for us lately."

The Pacers (18-34) are not in playoff contention, but have beaten some good teams at home this season, while the Bulls are now just 4-17 all-time at Conseco Fieldhouse.

Danny Granger led Indiana with 27 points, while Murphy finished with 18 points and 16 rebounds.