With or without Derrick Rose, the Chicago Bulls will continue to rely on their tenacious defense.
Fresh off their All-Star appearances, Luol Deng netted 20 points, while Joakim Noah added 15 points and 17 rebounds in the Bulls' 96-87 win over the New Orleans Hornets.
The Bulls originally hoped that their star point guard, Rose, who tore his ACL in the first round of last year's playoffs in April, would return after the All-Star break. But reports last week stated that he was far away from returning and may not even come back this season.
Chicago, meanwhile, has remained in the playoff hunt without Rose. Currently the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference at 31-22, the Bulls came into the tilt holding their opponents to 43.3 percent shooting, which is third best in the NBA.
New Orleans shot 41.7 percent (35-of-84) from the floor Tuesday.
"The defense was solid," Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau said. "Joakim was everywhere, multiple effort plays."
The Bulls had dropped four of their last five contests heading into the break.
Eric Gordon poured in 20 points to lead the Hornets, who had won four of their past five games.
Anthony Davis' dunk pulled the hosts within 84-79 midway through the fourth, but Chicago countered with an 8-3 flurry to open up a double-digit advantage. Noah had a pair of buckets during the swing as the Bulls went up 92-82 with 2:53 left.
Greivis Vasquez got his layup to go and Gordon nailed a 3-pointer to get the Hornets back within 92-87, but Deng's jumper from the top of the key with 44.8 ticks to play essentially sealed the outcome.
Chicago took a 26-21 lead after a quarter of play, headed into the locker room with a 47-43 edge and held a 74-68 cushion going into the final stanza.
New Orleans committed just six turnovers through the first three frames, but gave the ball away eight times in the fourth ... Carlos Boozer finished with 17 points and 10 boards for Chicago.