Daily Herald
Opportunistic Bulls cruise past Hornets , 107-93
Special to the Daily Herald
Published: 2/4/2009 10:23 PM | Updated: 2/4/2009 11:28 PM

NEW ORLEANS - The Bulls knew they caught a break when all-star point guard Chris Paul suffered a groin injury two days before they were scheduled to play at New Orleans.

They didn't waste the opportunity, getting off to a fast start and coasting to a relatively easy 107-93 victory over the short-handed Hornets on Wednesday night. Besides Paul, New Orleans also was without ex-Bulls center Tyson Chandler, who missed his eighth game with a sprained ankle.

The Bulls (22-28) improved to 4-2 on their seven-game "ice show" road trip, with one date remaining Saturday in Dallas.

"Chris wasn't there, but we've had our share of injuries," Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro said. "That's just part of the NBA. (Tuesday) night, we got the full load of the Houston Rockets. I think they had only been together four games all year. You have to play the games when they're scheduled. We were a little fortunate without Chris, but I thought our demeanor and our approach to the game was very positive.

The Bulls made 11 of their first 13 shots and jumped to an early 31-15 lead. Forward Tyrus Thomas helped set the tone with 10 points, 6 rebounds and 2 steals in the first quarter.

Six Bulls ended up scoring in double figures, led by Derrick Rose with 21 points and Ben Gordon with 19. As a team, the Bulls shot 56.2 percent from the field.

After being pushed around by Houston's 7-foot-6 center Yao Ming a day earlier, Bulls center Joakim Noah produced 16 points and 9 rebounds, while Thomas finished with 15 points, 10 boards and 3 blocks.

"That's how you win in this league, by controlling the paint and by rebounding," Del Negro said. "Tyrus and Jo are difference-makers. When they play the way they're capable and we get them involved and everyone works together, we're a different team."

After leading 62-44 at halftime, the Bulls stretched their advantage to 22 points on several occasions in the second half. The Hornets (28-18) made a late rally but never got closer than 10 points.

David West and Peja Stojakovic scored 24 points each for New Orleans, which dropped its fourth straight.

BG not invited: Ben Gordon did not get an invitation to the 3-point shooting contest during all-star weekend. The Bulls' guard ranked fifth in the league in 3-point baskets made (108) heading into Wednesday's action, while shooting 40.9 percent from behind the arc.

Toronto's Jason Kapono, the two-time defending champion in the event, will compete against Orlando's Rashard Lewis, Atlanta's Mike Bibby, Indiana's Danny Granger, San Antonio's Roger Mason Jr., and Miami's Daequan Cook.