for this game

Deng, Thomas help Bulls take season series over Cavs

Apr 12, 2008 - 3:28 AM By Rory Spears PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

CHICAGO (Ticker) - The Chicago Bulls continued their winning trend against LeBron James and company on Friday night.

Luol Deng scored 21 points and Tyrus Thomas chipped in 20 and 14 rebounds as the Bulls posted a 100-95 triumph over the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Rookie Joakim Noah contributed 17 points, 11 boards and four blocks in helping Chicago capture the season series, 3-1, over the Cavaliers.

"It's not just about improving at this point," Noah said. "I really wanted to experience the playoffs, but that's not where we are at, we still want to play hard for the sold-out crowds that keep coming out."

Chicago (31-48), which was eliminated from postseason play on Tuesday night, was coming off its two worst losses of the season with setbacks to Miami and Orlando.

James opened the game on fire, hitting all 10 shots he took in the first quarter, including four 3-pointers, as the Cavaliers grabbed a 33-25 lead. But James cooled off, finishing with 34 points on the evening.

"I didn't take many shots after the first quarter," said James, who continues to battle back issues down the stretch. "(Chicago) turned up the pressure, but I am human too."

Despite the loss, Cleveland (43-36) still holds a two-game lead for fourth place and home-court advantage over Washington (41-37) in the Eastern Conference standings.

"We can't worry about Washington or anybody else," James said. "It's about us playing well, we will figure it out. We have a veteran ball club."

Chicago rallied in the second behind a 12-3 run to open the quarter to take the lead 37-36 on Deng's 3-pointer with 7:11 left. The Bulls pushed their advantage to 52-43 after Deng converted a pair from the line at the 2:41 mark. Chicago held a 53-47 lead at halftime.

"Our whole team picked up the defense in the second quarter," Deng said. "In the second period, we figured out where LeBron was on the court."

In the third, Chicago continued to build on its lead when Kirk Hinrich nailed a jumper at the end of the period to forge an 82-65 advantage.

Chicago's young duo of Thomas and Noah provided a much-needed spark in the paint.

"We had a lot of good individual performances," Bulls interim coach Jim Boylan said. "Tyrus and Joakim were very active on the boards, it was great to see them play a lot of minutes and sustain their efforts."

Former Bull Joe Smith had 20 points off the bench and Delonte West added 16 for Cleveland, which was held to just 14 points in the second en route to its third straight loss in the series.

"It was almost a dunk fest for them in the second half," Smith said. "We made a rally late in the game but, by then, we had dug ourselves to big of a hole."

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