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Boozer helps Bulls outlast Suns

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(AP photo)
The Bulls' Carlos Booze shoots past Phoenix Suns' Marcin Gortat during the first half of Wednesday's game in Phoenix.

PHOENIX – Carlos Boozer's latest big game against Phoenix came in handy when the Bulls blew an 18-point lead.

Boozer had 28 points and 14 rebounds, and the Bulls scored the first eight points in overtime to outlast the Suns, 112-106, on Wednesday.

Boozer, who scored 31 against Phoenix in the previous meeting last season, was a force at power forward again. He made 11 of 20 shots and had his way inside as the Bulls piled up 50 points in the paint. Luol Deng added 21 points and center Joakim Noah had 21 points and 12 rebounds.

"I just played off my teammates," Boozer said. "Rip (Hamilton) got me going in transition, Kirk (Hinrich) got me going with pocket passes."

The Bulls scored six points on putbacks in a 10-0 run that gave them a 79-61 lead in the third quarter. But the Suns fought back in the fourth by being active on the offensive boards and defending with more energy.

"The lesson we have to learn is we have to play tough with the lead," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. "I thought we got a little loose. We were throwing lobs and not strong with the ball."

Luis Scola had 24 points and 14 rebounds for Phoenix, while Sebastian Telfair scored 17 off the bench.

"We played extremely hard, we just couldn't come up with offense when we needed it," Suns coach Alvin Gentry said. "Defensively in the second half I thought we did a great job of just hanging in and shaving a few points here and there. The players are trying to learn each other. ... In the meantime, we just keep playing hard and keep competing, and somewhere along the line good things are going to happen for us."

Marcin Gortat banked in a hook shot to cut the Bulls' lead to 91-88, and Shannon Brown made it 91-90 on a driving layup with 4:22 to play in the fourth.

Telfair's 3-pointer tied it at 93 with 3 minutes left, but the Bulls hit four of six free throws over the next 2 minutes to go up 99-95. Brown converted a three-point play and Boozer missed a jumper to give Phoenix another chance to take the lead, but Brown missed on a drive to the basket with 19 seconds to go.

Richard Hamilton hit one of two free throws to give the Bulls a 100-98 advantage before P.J. Tucker gathered in a loose ball and laid it in to knot the score at 100 with 9.4 seconds left.

Hamilton missed a chance for the lead, and Phoenix didn't have time to get off a shot before the buzzer to end regulation. The Suns found themselves in overtime for the first time since April 11, 2011, and it took them a little while to get acclimated.

"You get down like that and these teams are tough," Tucker said. "There's a lot of good players. It takes so much out of you to actually fight back, to come back."

The Bulls won their fourth straight game in Phoenix, tying Miami and Oklahoma City for the longest active winning streak by a visiting team.

"We have a lot of vets on this team and we did a good job of being calm and letting the game come to us," Deng said.

The Bulls led 29-27 at the end of a back-and-forth first quarter. Boozer scored 10 points and the Bulls shot 62 percent from the field.

The Bulls led by as many as seven points in the second, 40-33, before Scola heated up. He scored eight points during a 13-6 run that gave the Suns a 46-42 lead with 4:45 left in the first half.

The Bulls stormed back with a 13-0 run, led by Boozer and reserve Jimmy Butler. Boozer scored 16 points in the first half on 8-of-12 shooting and the Bulls went 4 of 7 on 3-pointers while shooting 58.5 percent in the first half to lead 57-51 at the break.

Scola shot 8 of 13 and scored 16 points in the first half to go with seven rebounds.

The Bulls jumped out to a 63-54 lead, matching their largest advantage of the game, in the first 3 minutes of the third quarter. Noah stole a pass and dribbled from beyond halfcourt for a dunk to cap a mini-run.

Suns forward Markieff Morris went down hard in the closing seconds of regulation and walked slowly off the court with a bag of ice on his backside. He didn't return and is day to day with a bruised lower back.

NOTES: Hinrich returned to the lineup after missing Monday's game against Minnesota with a strained right hip. He scored three points and had seven assists in 27 minutes. ... Suns C Jermaine O'Neal was activated before the game after missing the previous five to attend to a family matter. He did not play. O'Neal has not played since Nov. 4 at Orlando. ... Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp sat courtside.

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