Chicago, IL (SportsNetwork.com) - Carlos Boozer returned from a nagging calf injury that cost him three games and totaled 15 points and 10 rebounds to help the Chicago Bulls head into the All-Star break on a high note with a 92-76 victory over the Brooklyn Nets.
Boozer's replacement in the starting lineup when he was sidelined, Taj Gibson, chipped in with a 16-point, five-rebound effort in a reserve role, and Joakim Noah continued to fill the stat sheet with 14 points, 13 boards and seven assists.
"We have to look at our team in totality. For us to achieve, we need Carlos to play well. With our depth up front, we have three starters and they all have to sacrifice," said Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau.
Chicago, which has taken four of its last five, owned a 45-27 rebounding advantage and held a Nets team that had won four of five coming in to a season-low point total on 38.8 percent shooting.
Paul Pierce led the Nets with 15 points but was held scoreless in the fourth quarter. Brookyln's lone All-Star, Joe Johnson, provided 11 points on 4-of-14 shooting.
"We need to play better defense when Kevin [Garnett] comes out of the game. We sustain when he is in there, but he can't play 34 minutes," said Pierce.
Six of the 15 turnovers created by the Bulls came in the opening quarter, one coming off a steal by Jimmy Butler that saw Kirk Hinrich run the fastbreak and send a lob back to Butler, whose deft touch pass to Noah resulted in an uncontested dunk and an 18-11 Chicago lead early on.
Butler's reverse layup and Nazr Mohammed's jumper opened the second-quarter scoring and stretched the margin to 33-19, and it was a 49-41 game at halftime.
Pierce scored eight points in the first 4:01 of the third, with his two free throws cutting the gap to 56-53. Chicago, though, scored 11 of the next 13 points to regain its double-digit advantage, and a three-point play by Deron Williams in the closing seconds of the third pulled Brooklyn within 69-61.
The Nets were again within three, 75-72, following the first 3-pointer of Andre Kirilenko's season midway through the fourth, and again the Bulls had an answer with nine consecutive points.
D.J. Augustin countered Kirilenko's triple with a deep make of his own, and the run was capped when blocks by Noah and Butler on Andray Blatche on the same possession led to a Gibson jumper at the other end.
It was a double-digit game for the final three minutes.
Chicago is two games over .500 (27-25) for the first time since it was 6-4 on Nov. 21 ... The Bulls have won the last four meetings, including a Christmas Day victory when they held the Nets to 78 points, which was their season low prior to Thursday ... Butler and Mike Dunleavy each had 14 points for Chicago ... Brooklyn's first six games after the break will be on the road.