CHICAGO (AP) — Taj Gibson scored 16 points and Carlos Boozer returned from an injury to add 15 in the Chicago Bulls’ 92-76 victory over the Brooklyn Nets on Thursday night.
Boozer missed the last three games because of a strained left calf.
Joakim Noah had 14 points and 13 rebounds for his fifth straight double-double. The Bulls (27-25) moved two games above .500 for the first time since they were 6-4 on Nov. 21. They have won four of five.
Paul Pierce led Brooklyn with 15 points in the teams’ final game before the All-Star break. The Nets are 24-27, going 14-6 since Jan. 1.
The Nets pulled within three on Andrei Kirilenko’s 3-pointer with 6:29 left. D.J. Augustin answered with a 3-pointer to start a 9-0 Chicago run.
The Nets’ Joe Johnson and the Bulls’ Jimmy Butler were called for technical fouls and Johnson for an offensive foul after they exchanged words and had to be separated by their teammates with 5:57 left in the third quarter. Johnson elbowed Butler on the play, and Butler was restrained by his teammates before Johnson poked Butler’s face.
The Bulls shot 50 percent to the Nets’ 38.8 percent. Mike Dunleavy and Jimmy Butler each had 14 points for the Bulls. Gibson provided a lift off the bench with Boozer back in the lineup. Gibson has averaged 19.2 points and 9.8 rebounds in eight starts.
Deron Williams added 13 points for the Nets, Joe Johnson had 11, and Shaun Livingston 10.
Pierce was called for a technical after picking up an offensive foul for his fourth foul with 3:34 remaining. Augustin made a free throw that was waved off because he wasn’t in the game at the time of the technical. Dunleavy made the free throw to give the Bulls a 65-55 lead.
Brooklyn cut the lead to 56-53 on Pierce’s free throws with 7:59 left in the third quarter. The Bulls extended the lead to 62-53 after baskets by Noah and Boozer and two free throws by Kirk Hinrich.
The Bulls led 69-61 after the third quarter after Williams completed a three-point play.
The Bulls are 2-0 against the Nets this season. Chicago won 95-78 on the road on Christmas Day.
NOTES: Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau was unsure how many minutes Boozer would play in his return. ‘‘I'm not really concerned about the injury because I think that part is fine,’’ Thibodeau said. ‘‘But the conditioning part of it I'm concerned about that.’’ ... Thibodeau said Gibson’s minutes will remain similar to how much he was playing in Boozer’s absence. ‘‘For us to achieve what we want to achieve, Carlos has to play,’’ Thibodeau said. ‘‘He has a big role on this team.’’ ...G Marquis Teague was averaging 3.7 points for the Nets after the Bulls traded him Jan. 21. ‘‘He’s been great,’’ Nets coach Jason Kidd said. ‘‘He’s done everything that we've asked him to do. He’s only 20, so (we’re looking) for him to continue working and when he’s out there on the floor to get better.’’