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Bulls head off slippage with rebound win over Timberwolves

Carlos Boozer drives Darko Milicic during 24-point 14-rebound effort Wednesday. | Jordan Johnson~Getty Images

Carlos Boozer drives on Darko Milicic during a 24-point, 14-rebound effort Wednesday. | Jordan Johnson~Getty Images

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Updated: July 14, 2011 12:16AM

MINNEAPOLIS — “Slippage’’ was the Tom Thibodeau word of the day.

Specifically, how his Bulls team could avoid it entering the final two weeks of the season with so much on the line.

It’s amazing how a night against the lowly Minnesota Timberwolves can make a coach once again feel like he has a team that might be a bit more slippage-proof.

Thanks to a 24-point, 14-rebound effort from Carlos Boozer and Derrick Rose being, well, Derrick Rose, the Bulls erased a loss Monday to Philadelphia that seemed to be hovering over the squad like a dark cloud entering the game Wednesday.

And they did so without Joakim Noah, who was sidelined with a sprained right ankle suffered in the fourth quarter against the 76ers.

The 108-91 win over the Wolves not only kept the Bulls in position to lock down the top seed in the Eastern Conference with eight games left, but it kept them 21/2 games in front of the Miami Heat and idle Boston Celtics.

More important to Thibodeau, they did so by sticking to a formula he feared they had taken for granted.

“Just the readiness to start,’’ Thibodeau explained. “It starts with our defense, and if our defense isn’t up to par, you know we thought we could come in and outscore people, and that’s not good for us. We have to tighten things up defensively, and when we defend and rebound, we usually play well. That was the biggest concern, allowing teams to get going. Once they get going, they’re a lot harder to slow down, so we have to try and make it harder on teams to start the game.’’

Nothing like making the Wolves the crash dummies in getting back to that style of play.

Thanks to back-to-back three-pointers by Rose and Keith Bogans less than two minutes into the game, the boat race was on. When Rose, who finished with 23 points and 10 assists, hit a jumper with 2:47 left in the first quarter, the Bulls’ lead was 12.

The Wolves had no answer for Boozer or Rose through the first three quarters, and they didn’t get an opportunity to solve them in the fourth, considering their services were no longer needed.

“We went back and watched tape of the last two games, and we haven’t had that kind of performance,’’ Boozer said. “We want to be a 48-minute team, and that was another thing we talked about.’’

Now, the message from Thibodeau is a simple one: Keep the foot on the pedal.

“This win started [Tuesday],’’ Thibodeau said. “I thought our shootaround [Wednesday morning] was serious. In the locker room, we were serious. The start of the game was serious.’’

As for Noah and his injury, he will give it a go this afternoon at practice with the hope of being ready for the Detroit Pistons on Friday.

Whether he plays or not, Thibodeau expects the energy to stay at the level it was against the Timberwolves.

“I have to lay out the plan,’’ he said. “Our best players have to help sell the vision, and we all have to work on keeping our priorities in order.’’

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