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Thibodeau’s technical gets Bulls moving in victory over 76ers

By Vaughn McClure, Chicago Tribune –

CHICAGO — C.J. Watson wasn’t overly concerned about his offensive game. He was worried more about how his ailing left ankle would hold up on defense against 76ers guard Jrue Holiday.

(PHOTO: The Chicago Bulls’ Kyle Korver commits a blocking foul on the Philadelphia 76ers’ Jodie Meeks (20) in the first half at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois, on Saturday, March 17, 2012.)

“Having to guard him and Lou Williams on a bad ankle is not good,” Watson noted. “It’s not what I pictured.”

Watson gutted it out on both ends, and his offense proved to be the boost the Bulls needed after a woeful start.

As Derrick Rose sat out his third straight game with a strained groin, Watson again replaced him in the starting lineup and scored a team-high 20 points in the Bulls’ 89-80 victory.

Watson attacked the basket despite his bum ankle and scored 10 of his points in the pivotal third quarter. The Bulls turned a five-point deficit into a five-point advantage by the end of the period and never relinquished the lead.

“C.J. was big,” Luol Deng said.

The Bulls sure needed a spark. They fell behind 11-0 to start the game and didn’t score until 6 minutes, 49 seconds remained in the first quarter — a Carlos Boozer jumper. The 76ers led by as many as 14 in the first half as Holiday went berserk, obviously taking advantage of Watson’s limited mobility.

It was far from what was expected the night after the Bulls suffered an 11-point loss to the Trail Blazers, a defeat that obviously got under coach Tom Thibodeau’s skin. The coach implored his team to move away from individual play on offense and concentrate on defense.

Somehow, the message didn’t get across immediately.

“I didn’t think I reached them in the first quarter,” Thibodeau said. “You know what? They were great today, and I knew they would be. The things that I liked (was) we were struggling, obviously, in the first quarter. Everyone hung together and just worked our way out of it.”

Several factors contributed to the second-half resurgence. Joakim Noah pointed to the key offensive rebound put-back teammate Omer Asik had at the third-quarter buzzer that gave the Bulls a little more momentum heading into the fourth. The Bulls out-rebounded the athletic 76ers 53-39, and aspect Thibodeau said was key.

Thibodeau seemed to ignite a spark of his own in the third quarter with a technical foul, although he wouldn’t take any credit. He argued a charge called against Watson.

“The officials are all pretty good,” Thibodeau said. “I probably said something that I shouldn’t have.”

Not to mention the “Bench Mob” was clicking, with birthday boy Kyle Korver and Taj Gibson each contributing 11 points.

Noah scored 13 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and had out four assists. Boozer added 11 points. The overall team effort offset Holiday’s 30-point night.

And the Bulls (37-10) avoided losing consecutive games for the first time since Feb 7, 2011.

“We don’t want to lose any game,” Boozer said. “So when we do lose a game, we come in the next night with a whole new sense of purpose.”

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