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Bulls rout Bucks, enter break with third-best record in NBA

Guard Derrick Rose played over 30 minutes his second game back from back injury. | TamarBell~Sun-Times Media

Guard Derrick Rose played over 30 minutes in his second game back from a back injury. | Tamara Bell~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: March 24, 2012 9:04AM

Joakim Noah became the first Bulls center to post a triple-double since Artis Gilmore in 1977 in the Bulls’ 110-91 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday night at the United Center. It was the last game before the All-Star break, and a team get-together was planned for later in the evening. Noah turns 27 on Saturday.

Those facts, coupled with the Bulls owning the league’s third-best record (27-8) despite the NBA’s toughest first-half schedule, suggested Noah and the team had plenty of reasons to celebrate.

“It feels good,” Noah said. “It feels even better to have this break right now. We just wanted to come out and play hard and be focused for tonight. We got the ‘W,’ it’s my birthday in a couple days and there’s going to be a team function tonight for all the Bulls players. It’s going to be a fun night.”

The Bulls’ long-term objective is defeating the Miami Heat and advancing to the NBA Finals. Until the playoffs, the focus remains on the lesser goals Tom Thibodeau serves fresh to his team daily. On this night, the Bulls coach didn’t want anyone leaving early for the long weekend.

The team responded with a dominating performance before Derrick Rose, Luol Deng and Thibodeau and his staff head to Orlando, Fla., for the All-Star Game while the rest of the Bulls enjoy a well-deserved blow.

“All I know is, with what we have this year, I don’t feel we’ve peaked yet,” Noah said. “We have to take it up another notch to win a championship.”

Noah posted his first triple-double with 13 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists because the Bucks chose to double-team Rose on the pick-and-roll, leaving Noah in the middle of the floor with the ball in his hands.

The Bulls outrebounded the injury-depleted Bucks 49-29 while shooting 54 percent from the floor.

“The only reason why I was able to do it was they were trying to get the ball out of Derrick’s hands,” Noah said. “When they put two on Derrick, I’m just making plays off that. It’s really because of him I’m able to make plays.”

Rose had 16 points and seven assists in 30 minutes after insisting before the game that he has fully recovered from a back injury.

“His confidence is very high right now, and he’s driving the team,” Rose said of Noah.

Carlos Boozer led the Bulls with 20 points, Luol Deng had 16 and Ronnie Brewer 15.

Brandon Jennings scored 20 for the Bucks, Ersan Ilyasova added 15 and rookie Jon Leuer 14.

“We just take it one day at a time,” Boozer said. “When we get back, we’ll get ready for who we play next. Right now, we’re ready for the break and to rest our bodies.”

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