CHICAGO – Joakim Noah scored 23 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, and the Bulls got off to a good start without Derrick Rose, beating the Sacramento Kings, 93-87, Wednesday in the season opener.
Richard Hamilton added 19 points, while Carlos Boozer chipped in with 18 points and eight rebounds.
The Bulls are out to show they can get by while their superstar recovers from a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee, and this was promising even if it was a struggle.
The Bulls led by 14 after a 10-0 run in the third quarter and hung on in the fourth after the Kings closed within three several times.
A basket by Sacramento’s Tyreke Evans (21 points) cut it to 86-83 with 41.2 seconds left, but Luol Deng hit 1 of 2 free throws.
Evans couldn’t get the ball in bounds, resulting in a five-second violation. That led to two free throws for Hamilton to make it 89-83 with 32.9 seconds left, and the Bulls hung on from there.
Along with the points and rebounds, Noah set a career high with five steals. He also blocked three shots
Hamilton was relentless after being sidelined for much of last season by injuries, and Boozer was effective down the stretch scoring seven points in the fourth.
That included a neat three-point play off a miss by Noah in which he crashed to the court and then hit the free throw, making it 86-78 with 2:45 remaining.
The Kings, who are trying to make a jump after six straight losing seasons, got 15 points from Marcus Thornton and 14 from DeMarcus Cousins.
This time last year, the Bulls were eyeing a championship run. Now, with their superstar sidelined, there’s a different vibe around the Bulls.
The mood changed when Rose crashed to the court late in the Bulls’ playoff-opening win over Philadelphia, sending the Bulls spiraling toward a first-round exit and casting a huge cloud over a team that many saw as the biggest threat to Miami in the Eastern Conference.
To many, they’re treading water until Rose returns. The Bulls, of course, don’t see it that way.
Note: Bulls F Taj Gibson agreed to a contract extension late Wednesday night. Details were not available before press time. Without an extension, he would have become a restricted free agent.