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Deng doesn't 'back' away from physical contact
By Mike McGraw | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 11/28/2007 12:52 AM

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The Bulls never had much reason to question Luol Deng's toughness, but the fourth-year forward was particularly impressive in Tuesday's win over Atlanta.

He produced 22 points and 9 rebounds, even while taking a couple of jolts to his already sore back and getting poked in the right eye by teammate Joakim Noah.

The Bulls should have had the final possession of the first quarter, but a pass bounced off the hands of Ben Gordon and into the backcourt, resulting in an over-and-back violation with 2.4 seconds on the clock.

That was enough time for Atlanta's Josh Childress to explode into the lane and barrel over Deng. The Bulls got the charge call, but Deng fell hard on his sore back, which caused him to miss three games recently.

Late in the second quarter, Deng was poked in the eye during a rebound battle and headed to the locker room early, but he was in the lineup when the third quarter began. Deng took another charge against Childress later in the contest.

Uneven free throws: Here's another strange Bulls' statistical phenomenon: Three of their players are shooting better than 90 percent from the foul line -- Joe Smith (19 of 20), Ben Gordon (51 of 55) and Kirk Hinrich (21 of 23).

Yet, as a team, the Bulls ranked 25th in the league in free-throw percentage at .705 heading into Tuesday's action. Guys like Ben Wallace (33 percent), Tyrus Thomas (50 percent), Andres Nocioni (66 percent) and Luol Deng (68 percent) have brought down the average.

Skiles joke goes awry: In case anyone thinks the slow start has prompted Scott Skiles to attack the media, the Bulls coach insisted he wasn't serious when criticizing the use of unnamed sources in a column by the Tribune's Sam Smith on Monday.

"Absolutely in jest," Skiles said. "It's been five years. You'd think everybody would have some handle on my sense of humor. I wasn't critical of that article in any shape or form, I don't think."

Curry starts quickly: Now with three games under his belt in the D-League, Bulls rookie guard JamesOn Curry is averaging 23.0 points and 5.0 assists, while shooting 41.8 percent overall and 7-for-15 from 3-point range. The Bulls' affiliate, the Iowa Energy, is off to a 3-0 start.

Bull horns: Atlanta attempted the first 14 free throws of Tuesday's game until Joakim Noah knocked down a pair with 1:01 left before halftime. The final tally was 30-22 in favor of the Hawks. ... Before the game, Scott Skiles vowed to play rookie center Aaron Gray more often, then didn't deliver until the final 3:36 against the Hawks.