CLEVELAND (AP) — Luol Deng misses his close friends in Chicago. The Bulls seem to be getting along fine without him.
D.J. Augustin scored 27 points in a start for Kirk Hinrich and Taj Gibson matched a career high with 26 filling in for Carlos Boozer as the Bulls improved to 7-2 since trading the popular Deng with a 98-87 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday night.
Augustin and Mike Dunleavy hit 3-pointers down the stretch to pace the Bulls, who have won three straight, nine of 11 and moved over .500 for the first time since Nov. 22.
Chicago reached the season's mid-point at 21-20, not where many expected the Bulls to be sitting after dealing Deng.
The two-time All-Star was a non-factor in his first game against his former team, which traded him for draft picks on Jan. 6. Deng went just 2 of 11 from the field and scored 11 points in 40 minutes.
"It was strange," Deng said. "It's the Cavs versus the Bulls and not so much about me. In terms of me, I could have played better."
Joakim Noah had 18 rebounds for the Bulls, who appeared to be looking toward the future when they traded Deng, not long after losing superstar Derrick Rose to a season-ending injury.
But the Bulls aren't fading away as coach Tom Thibodeau has them playing with their usual defensive tenacity.
Deng's not around, but the Bulls remain as tough as always.
"It's one of the things I respect about our team," Thibodeau said. "They respond to every challenge. They have a lot of heart. They're playing together. Each day they have the right approach. If someone's out, the next five get in there and get the job done. We're short-handed. We understand how hard we have to play to give ourselves a chance to win."