NBA-best Bulls rebound with easy win over league-worst Bobcats

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NBA-best Bulls rebound with easy win over league-worst Bobcats

CHARLOTTEIn a matchup of the leagues best and worst teams this season, the Bulls outclassed the lowly Bobcats from start to finish Thursday night at Time Warner Cable Arena, blowing out historically awful Charlotte, 100-68.

Propelled by Rip Hamilton tying his season high in scoring, the Bulls bounced back from a surprising defeat in their previous outing to hand the Bobcats their 18th consecutive loss, even without the services of All-Stars Derrick Rose and Luol Deng for the second consecutive game.

The visitors didnt immediately jump on their inferior hosts, as one might expect after Mondays disappointing home loss to Washington. Young Bobcats (7-54) like emerging big man Byron Mullens, athletic swingman Gerald Henderson Jr. (13 points) and rookie point guard Kemba Walker (team-high 16 points, five assists) each made an early impact; in fact, the trio scored all of the home teams points in the opening period.

But while the Bulls (47-15) eventually clamped down on the defensive end, offense was never a problem, as starting post players Carlos Boozer (10 points, seven rebounds, four assists) and Joakim Noah (12 points, five rebounds) got off to quick starts, much of which was due to the playmaking of wings Hamilton (22 points on 9-for-13 shooting, 4-for-5 from three-point range, six assists) and Ronnie Brewer. The latter was also a force as a scorer, showing off his versatility in leading the Bulls to a 34-20 lead through a quarter of play.

The Bench Mob maintained the Bulls substantial edge in the second stanza, as the big-man tandem of Taj Gibson (nine points, 12 rebounds) and Omer Asik (nine points, 15 rebounds) dominated the interior, while rookie Jimmy Butler was an active presence in a rare early stint for the short-handed squad.

John Lucas III (12 points), thrust into a backup role in Roses absence and utilized earlier than usual due to fill-in starter C.J. Watsons early foul trouble, was also effective, while sharpshooter Kyle Korver kept the Bobcats defense honest. Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau rode his reserves until the intermission and the guests went into halftime holding a 52-37 advantage.

Hamilton resumed his offensive exploits immediately after the break, with a focus on his torrid outside marksmanshiphe knocked down his first four attempts from beyond the three-point arcin another of his recent returns to his former All-Star form. Meanwhile, Boozer and Watson were also productive for the visitors, who extended their lead to over 20 points.

Chicagos balanced play and stifling defensive effort frustrated the young hosts, who seemingly couldnt catch a break and just couldnt get the ball to bounce their way, let alone get defensive stops consistently, hit open jumpers, finish around the basket or control the backboards. However, perhaps the Bulls starters got bored, as Charlotte mounted a late-period run to narrow the gap to 77-59 heading into the final stanza.

The entire fourth quarter was extended garbage tome, as the Bulls reserves got a chance for more action than usual, though that didnt improve the lot of the woeful Bobcats. The visitors lead ballooned to more than 30 points against their helpless hosts, giving the likes of Asik, Lucas and Gibson the opportunity to work on their games.

By the end, the only drama for the sparse crowd was whether fan favorite Brian Scalabrine would see any playing time, which he did, to the enjoyment of the dwindling number of fans in attendance. With the expected blowout victory in hand, the Bulls could now fully turn their focus to Thursdays showdown with the rival Heat in Miami.

Five Things to Watch: Bulls visit Bucks in final regular season meeting on CSN

Five Things to Watch: Bulls visit Bucks in final regular season meeting on CSN

Watch as the Bulls take on the Toronto Raptors tonight on CSN and streaming live on CSNChicago.com. Coverage begins at 5:30 p.m. with Bulls Pregame Live. Then stick around after the final buzzer to watch Bulls Postgame Live for highlights and analysis.

Click here to watch the game or download the NBC Sports App, your home for live streaming coverage of the Bulls.

Five Things to Watch:

1. Can the Bulls get one on the Bucks? The Bulls are 0-3 against the Bucks so far this season and it hasn't been pretty. The Bucks have won the previous three meetings all by double digits and by an average of 19 points. The youth and athleticism of the Bucks has been a tough matchup for the Bulls so far.

2. Containing Giannis. There may be no stopping Giannis Antetokounmpo, but the Bulls can at least try to contain him. Antetokounmpo is averaging 23 points and nearly nine rebounds per game. In three games against the Bulls this year he has averaged 29 points, 10 rebounds and 7.3 assists per contest. If the Bulls are to stay in the game, they will need to keep him to numbers lower than that.

3. Playoff implications. The Bulls playoff hopes are still alive with nine games remaining, but things are looking a bit bleak. The Bulls are a game and a half out of the eighth playoff spot, but only 3.5 games behind two teams tied for the No. 5 seed, the Bucks and the Atlanta Hawks. The Bucks have won three in a row to improve their position.

4. Mirotic on a roll. Streaky play is nothing new to Nikola Mirotic, but he's on a good run currently. After scoring a season-high 28 points on Wednesday against the Pistons, Mirotic followed that up with 15 points against the 76ers. Since missing three straight games earlier this month, Mirotic has scored in double figures in five of the last seven games and is averaging 15.6 points during that stretch.

5. Beginning of a tough stretch. The Bulls' playoff hopes could be made or broken in the next three games. After taking on the Bucks, which occupy a playoff spot, the Bulls host two more Eastern Conference playoff teams in Cleveland and Atlanta. The Bulls need to string some wins together and this is not an easy stretch to do so against.

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Former Bulls center Joakim Noah suspended 20 games for violating NBA's anti-drug policy

Former Bulls center Joakim Noah suspended 20 games for violating NBA's anti-drug policy

The NBA announced Saturday that it has suspended former Bulls and current Knicks center Joakim Noah for 20 games without pay for violating the league's anti-drug policy.

He tested positive for an over-the-counter supplement called selective androgen receptor modulator LGD-4033, which is prohibited under the current collective bargaining agreement but would not have been under the new CBA starting next year, according to ESPN's Marc Spears.

It was announced in February that Noah would miss the remainder of the season with a left knee injury. His suspension will carry over into the 2017-18 campaign with only 10 games left this year.

Noah averaged 5.0 points per game and 8.8 rebounds per game in 46 games in his first of a four-year, $72 million contract with the Knicks.