In a game of momentum swings, the Bulls needed a strong finish to pull this one out and put away a team that blew out the Lakers the previous night. Chicago scored 10 of the first 12 points in the fourth quarter to take control on a night when Jordan, the Bobcats' owner, and Scottie Pippen sat next to each other at courtside.
"It's great just seeing Michael and Scottie sitting there," Deng said. "It's been great all year seeing Scottie. We all look up to Scottie. He's been at practice [as a team ambassador]. It was good to also see Michael."
"You can't leave him open," the Bobcats' Stephen Jackson said. "Everybody knows he can't do anything else but shoot."
Even so, that probably won't stop them from removing the interim tag from coach Paul Silas' title. General manager Rod Higgins told The Associated Press they're discussing a one-year extension, and the way this team's playing, it's not hard to see why.
The Bobcats are 15-13 under Silas and have jumped into playoff contention after a 9-19 start under Larry Brown. They just couldn't pull this one out after beating the Bulls twice last month.
"My starting guys just didn't have it tonight," Silas said.
With a 78-73 lead, Taj Gibson hit two free throws to start the fourth quarter and Rose added two more after a dunk by Henderson. A dunk by Gibson, a driving finger-roll layup by Deng and a short jumper by Omer Asik made it 88-75 with 8:16 remaining, and the Bulls stayed in control from there.
For much of the night, though, the teams battled back and forth.
The Bulls saw an 11-point lead in the second quarter disintegrate into a 43-42 deficit before they scored 10 of 12 to close out the half and go up 52-45.
In the third quarter, it was more of the same.
The Bobcats tied it at 57 on a layup by Gerald Wallace.
Rose finally got going after scoring five in the first half, starting a 10-2 run with a neat up-and-under layup for a three-point play and freezing Shaun Livingston with a crossover on a drive. He also hit two free throws before Keith Bogans nailed a 3 to make it 69-59 with 3:50 left, but the Bobcats kept coming back.
They scored seven straight late in the quarter to pull within 76-73 before Deng buried a 15-footer with 3 seconds left, and the Bulls then took control in the fourth.
"Guys are extremely confident," Boozer said. "If you're in the NBA, you can play. ... We're a team -- not just one guy, two guys, three guys; we're a group of guys. Everybody on this team, whether you're starting or off the bench, can play in the NBA and play well."
Chicago's Kurt Thomas became the 96th player to appear in 1,000 games. ... Charlotte's D.J. Augustin, bothered by a sprained left wrist, finished with five points in 20:40. The Bobcats don't play again until Feb. 22, and Silas believes the time off will help him. "He was working so hard and going so hard that he kind of hit a wall," Silas said before the game. "Now, with the rest, I think coming back he's going to be straight ahead again." ... Eduardo Najera, bothered by a groin problem, did not play.
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