Right from the start, Joakim Noah could sense it.
CHICAGO (AP) — Right from the start, Joakim Noah could sense it. Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen were on hand to celebrate that first championship, so he knew this was no ordinary game. It was no ordinary performance, either. With the past champions watching, the Chicago Bulls again looked like they’re bent on claiming their own spot in franchise history. Derrick Rose and Luol Deng each scored 26 points, and Chicago ran away with its 13th win in 15 games, all but grabbing a share of the Eastern Conference lead with an easy 118-100 victory over the Utah Jazz on Saturday. Rose scored 17 points in a blistering first quarter as the Bulls grabbed a 37-17 lead, and Chicago set a franchise record with 18 3-pointers while pulling within percentage points of Boston. "It’s huge," Noah said. "We understand that." It was a championship-level performance — in the first half, at least — on a night when Chicago celebrated the 20th anniversary of its first title. With Jordan, Pippen and other players and coaches from that team on hand for a halftime ceremony, the Bulls put on a show the old-timers could appreciate. "We’re definitely not even close to where they were, but we’re trying to get there," Deng said. Rose, the All-Star point guard and MVP candidate, buried 5 of 11 3-pointers. Deng added seven rebounds, six assists and three steals in another strong game despite a bruised left thigh. Joakim Noah contributed 16 points and nine rebounds, Kyle Korver scored 17, and C.J. Watson added 16 points and eight assists. The Bulls shot 52.6 percent overall, hitting 18 of 32 3-pointers, and won again even though Carlos Boozer missed his second game in as many nights with a sprained left ankle. "They’re playing championship-caliber basketball right now," Utah’s Devin Harris said. "Derrick is playing great leading those guys and everyone else is playing their role and doing it well. Al Jefferson had 33 points and 18 rebounds, Harris scored 24, but the Jazz fell for the 10th time in 13 games since Jerry Sloan stepped down as coach. It probably didn’t help that Paul Millsap missed his third straight game with tendinitis in his left knee, but either way, Utah has problems. "I’m certain they haven’t quit," coach Tyrone Corbin said. "We have some chemistry issues." Jefferson criticized the effort on defense after his team got blown out for the second straight night and the third time in four games, saying, "I don’t know what it is. I can’t put my finger on it. Let teams come out and do what they want to do on the offensive end." The Jazz fell by 21 at Minnesota on Friday and were no match for the Central division champions. One night after a runaway win over Atlanta, the Bulls took control right after they took off their warmups. Rose followed up a strong finish against the Hawks with a big start, but the All-Star point guard wasn’t exactly a one-man show as the Bulls built that 37-17 lead. Deng scored seven in the period. Noah scored six points as the Bulls jumped out to an 11-0 lead, starting with a dunk on the opening possession. The Jazz, meanwhile, missed their first five shots before Jeremy Evans ended the drought with a dunk, but the Bulls simply couldn’t be stopped in the early going. They led by as much as 31 early in the third before the Jazz pulled within 13 in the fourth quarter, and although coach Tom Thibodeau wasn’t thrilled with the defense in the second half, Chicago still put on quite a show. The loudest cheers were for Jordan during that halftime ceremony, and he couldn’t resist predicting six more championships for Chicago. "You’ve still got to go out there and stay hungry, stay driven," Noah said. "Everything that’s happened so far is because of hard work, and we’ve got to keep doing it." Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)