By K.C. Johnson, Tribune reporter
2:32 AM EST, February 9, 2013
SALT LAKE CITY -- The boos rained down early on Friday night from the Jazz faithful. But by night's end, they had changed to "Booz" inside a giddy Bulls locker room.
Carlos Boozer overcame early foul trouble and a late technical to score 11 straight fourth-quarter points, helping lead the Bulls to a gritty 93-89 victory over a Jazz team he left three seasons ago.
The Bulls not only handed the Jazz just their second loss in 13 games at Energy Solutions Arena and became the first Eastern Conference team to win here, but they eased some of the sting of Thursday's 32-point debacle in Denver. The loss to the Nuggets marked the worst loss under Tom Thibodeau.
"We've got a team full of grinders," Boozer said.
Indeed, the Bulls blew a 13-point lead and trailed by four with 3 minutes, 57 seconds remaining when Boozer unveiled his scoring run. Playing in a two-man game with Marco Belinelli, who returned from sitting one game with a sore right ankle, Boozer went to work.
"Marco is such a good pick-and-roll player," said Boozer, who shared a laugh with former Jazz coach Jerry Sloan in a hallway afterward. "He can score, shoot and pass, great ball-handler. I was just trying to play off him."
At the other end, the Bulls began showing Al Jefferson different defensive looks, alternating between doubling him or showing help and recovering. Despite a season-high 32 points, Jefferson failed to score a field goal the final nine minutes.
"We made plays down the stretch," coach Tom Thibodeau said. "Obviously, we have to clean up a lot on our defense. They had their way with us early inside in the paint. Our ball pressure has to be better. Our help has to be better. But I was concerned about our rebounding and we had some critical ones down the stretch."
The victory was marred slightly afterward when Joakim Noah admitted the plantar fasciitis in his right foot was still bothering him. Noah played through his mild pain to post a double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds in close to 34 minutes.
"I'm feeling pretty good," Noah said. "I'm happy we have a couple days of rest. I'm trying to get my foot right and get all the treatment possible. I'm hoping I can play through this and it improves even though I'm playing.
"There's not that much I can do right now. I want to get treatments and be out there for my teammates. I really don't want to (sit out). It didn't get any worse from (playing Thursday in Denver). We'll see how it feels (Saturday)."
Thibodeau chalked up Noah's occasional fumbling of passes to lack of timing.
"He's not catching with his feet," Thibodeau said, dismissing the plantar concerns. "It'll come around. I thought (Friday) was better than (Thursday). He has to keep working. It's difficult to play well when you miss a week. You have to get your timing back and used to handling the ball again."
Nate Robinson played the first 36 minutes straight and 46:09 overall, finishing with 18 points and nine assists.
"High minute load?" Thibodeau said, mocking a question about his playing time. "He's young, well-rested, hasn't played a lot of minutes this year. He got us off to a good start, was aggressive, set a good tempo for us."
The Bulls took the lead for good with 1:47 left when Boozer split two free throws. Boozer made four more free throws sandwiched around a Paul Millsap jumper. After Randy Foye drove and scored with 22.1 seconds left, Noah sank two huge free throws with 21.6 seconds left for a three-point lead.
After Millsap missed a 3-pointer, Luol Deng rebounded and added the final point on a free throw.
"We took a punch (Thursday) night and we got up and fought," Thibodeau said. "That's what you have to do."
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