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Belinelli’s career-high 23 points lift Bulls to 95-85 win over Cavs

Chicago Bulls v ClevelCavaliers

Chicago Bulls v Cleveland Cavaliers

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Updated: December 8, 2012 1:29AM



CLEVELAND — Center Joakim Noah might want to rethink his comments about Cleveland from a few years back.

It was during the 2009-10 playoffs against the Cavaliers in which Noah endeared himself to the city with this riff: “What’s so good about Cleveland? You like it? You think Cleveland is cool? I’ve never heard anyone say, ‘I’m going to Cleveland on vacation.’ ’’

With a 95-85 victory Wednesday over the Cavs, Cleveland is as close to a prime vacation spot as the Bulls have. They have won six in a row at Quicken Loans Arena, as well as 10 consecutive games against their Central Division rival.

“What’s so good about Cleveland?’’

Well, the Bulls are lucky enough to still have two more games against the Cavs.

“Every game we play, every game we win is hard-fought,’’ Noah said.

Hard-fought maybe. But meetings with the Cavs are starting to become bye nights. And like the first meeting earlier this season, there was once again very little resistance offered. Marco Belinelli led the Bulls (9-8) with a season-best 23 points, and Luol Deng chipped in 22. Belinelli was starting for a second consecutive game and might have cemented himself in that spot with Richard Hamilton on the shelf with a torn plantar fascia in his left foot.

While Hamilton is traveling with the team and continuing his rehab, coach Tom Thibodeau said that his status was still unchanged.

“Still day-to-day, getting better each day, but he’s probably going to be a week or two,’’ Thibodeau said.

Good news for Belinelli, who 10 days ago was seemingly in the Thibodeau doghouse, earning a “DNP-coach’s decision’’ in a home loss to Milwaukee.

“He’s been playing well, he had extended minutes, and that’s the biggest difference,’’ Thibodeau said when asked about the difference in Belinelli lately. “I thought he played hard; he scored in different ways.’’

Thibodeau believed enough in Belinelli to name him the starter rather than Jimmy Butler.

“Well, [because of] what [Belinelli] has done in the league,’’ Thibodeau said.

“You already have an idea because he’s already proven that. You know that it’s a matter of time, and each day, each game he’s gotten more comfortable. I thought he played very, very well.’’

And Belinelli did so from the start, scoring 10 of the Bulls’ first 27 points, as they jumped out to the quick 27-11 first-quarter lead.

No wonder his teammates kept looking for him.

“I think it was huge,’’ Noah said of Belinelli’s night. “Even in the beginning of the year, he’s someone that works really hard on his game and never got discouraged. He kept playing hard.’’

Nice words, but Belinelli’s focus is still on team. He chose the Bulls as a free agent last offseason to win.

“We can beat anybody, and we can be better,’’ Belinelli said. “We can improve. We can be a really good team; we can be great.’’

Quick reminder — it was Cleveland.



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