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Bulls outlast Kings in season opener with 93-87 win at home

Bulls center Joakim Noah (R) yells as Bulls make stop second quarter Chicago Bulls-SacramenKings NBA game Wednesday October 31 2012

Bulls center Joakim Noah (R) yells as the Bulls make a stop in the second quarter of the Chicago Bulls-Sacramento Kings NBA game Wednesday October 31, 2012 at the United Center. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

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Updated: October 31, 2012 11:08PM



It wasn’t pretty.

It wasn’t supposed to be pretty.

Ugly up the game with high-intensity defense, take the easy baskets when they come, grind the opposition down, then hang on. Welcome to Bulls Basketball 2012-13, where superstar-less hoops isn’t just practiced, it’s a way of life.

At least until Derrick Rose gets some cooperation from his surgically repaired left anterior cruciate ligament.

For now, it’ll be games like Wednesday’s season opener against the Sacramento Kings that only Tom Thibodeau could love.

Behind 23 points, 10 rebounds and a career-high five steals from Joakim Noah, the Bulls outlasted the Kings 93-87 to start the season 1-0 and validate the message Thibodeau has been preaching throughout training camp and the preseason: “The nature of the NBA is constant change. Whether it’s injury, trade, free agency, it’s all the same, and then whatever changes you have, you’ve got to deal with that effectively.’’

That they did.

Ugly at times, but effective.

Without Rose, the focus of the offense was not on one player, but on what five players could provide.

Noah was the big star, and Richard Hamilton was right behind with 19 points. Carlos Boozer chipped in 18.

“Yeah, we’re at a level where we just win games,’’ Luol Deng said of the mentality on offense. “We’re learning how to make each other better with the new guys. As the season goes on, guys will get more comfortable, but, yeah, it could be a [different guy] every night.’’

The Kings made it interesting. Trailing 86-83 with 35 seconds left, they fouled Deng to put him on the line. Deng split the free throws, but the Bulls forced a five-second call on the inbound attempt to get the ball back. Hamilton all but iced the game with two free throws.

“In this league, in order to be a great team, you’ve got to have production from all the guys on the floor,’’ Hamilton said. “You can’t just have one guy do the bulk of the scoring because good teams key on that, and later in the playoffs, it’s hard to win like that. In order for us to be good and successful, we’ve all got to be better. We all have to help each other without Derrick and bring more of a team thing to win games.’’

Thibodeau also has the players ignoring the negativity surrounding the team because of Rose’s absence.

“Even our first year here, the experts didn’t have us picked very high,’’ Thibodeau said. “So I don’t know how this season will unfold, other than if we approach it the same way and we continue to improve, who knows? The challenge is to get the most out of what we have.’’

Deng believes what they have is good enough.

“We’re good enough to win games, but we don’t look at ourselves as an average team,’’ Deng said. “We want to be the best team. I don’t know where our potential is, but we’re always going to strive for that.’’



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