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Bulls win with emotion over Sixers, 93-88

Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah (13) dunks over Philadelphia 76ers small forward Dorell Wright (4) in the first half at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois on Saturday, December 1, 2012.

By K.C. Johnson, Chicago Tribune –

CHICAGO—From the moment Joakim Noah tipped home Kirk Hinrich’s miss 28 seconds after Saturday night’s tipoff, the Chicago Bulls’ emotional leader worked himself into a lather.

He sprinted downcourt. He beat his chest. He shouted something not suitable for print. The remainder of the game, Noah kept his energy meter on high.

Perhaps Noah knew his teammates needed a boost at home. Perhaps he was just being himself. Whatever the case, the Bulls rode Noah’s intensity and another huge game from Luol Deng to a 93-88 victory over the 76ers, improving to a modest 5-4 at home and 8-7 overall.

Noah flirted with a triple double to finish with 12 points, 13 rebounds, seven assists and one double technical foul with Evan Turner. Deng added 25 points, seven rebounds and seven assists, scoring eight in the fourth.

“His shots were big, timely and clutch,” coach Tom Thibodeau said. “And Jo was terrific.”

The Bulls went 62-12 at home during Thibodeau’s first two regular seasons, making this season’s slow start all the more glaring.

Speaking of Rose, memories of his non-contact injury last April against these 76ers came flooding back when Richard Hamilton crumpled to the floor after making a jump pass late in the third quarter. Hamilton was helped to the locker room without putting weight on his left foot, which the team later announced he sprained.

Hamilton returned to the bench during the fourth quarter under his own power and, though listed as questionable, surprisingly iced the victory with three free throws in the final 14.7 seconds.

“(Thibodeau) didn’t want to put me back in at first, but I’m like, ‘As long as my right arm is good, I’m good,’” Hamilton said.

Hamilton limped in the postgame locker room and said he would get an MRI on Sunday.

“It’s real sore,” he said. “I was able to put a little weight on it. I knew I wasn’t 100 percent but I felt I could still help the team. When I jumped, I felt something pop on the bottom of my foot.

“They always say the worst injuries are when nobody is around and you didn’t fall on somebody’s foot. When it happened, it scared me. When I felt it, I didn’t want to put any pressure on it. But there wasn’t a lot of pain.”

Hamilton’s final two free throws came when the 76ers couldn’t secure a rebound off Hamilton’s missed free throw with 14.7 left, when it was a one-possession game.

The Bulls, who also got 12 points and 12 rebounds from Carlos Boozer, posted back-to-back victories for the first time since starting the season 2-0. Deng’s tough fallaway with 2 minutes, 34 seconds remaining pushed the Bulls ahead by four, and Taj Gibson followed with a dunk off a Noah dish.

“We’re finding ways to win,” Deng said.

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