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Augustin’s effort carries Bulls past Bobcats

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. – When the Chicago Bulls put out an SOS for help at point guard, D.J. Augustin was there to answer the call.

Now, Augustin is playing some of the best basketball of his career.

Augustin continued his torrid play with 28 points, including 15 in the decisive fourth quarter, as the Bulls beat the Charlotte Bobcats 89-87 on Saturday night.

It came against the team that made him their first-round pick in the 2008 NBA Draft and capped a week in which he also scored 27 points each in wins over the Los Angeles Lakers and the Cleveland Cavaliers. Augustin spent four seasons with the Bobcats.

“It was just fun to go out there and win tonight,” Augustin said. “We go out there every night and fight as a team and just to get a win on the road against a tough team, it feels good. It’s always fun playing against your own team, so I’m just happy to come away with a win.”

Augustin was claimed off waivers from Toronto on Dec. 13 after point guard Derrick Rose was shelved with a knee injury. He has started the last six games while point guard Kirk Hinrich has been out with hamstring problems.

“He was a huge pickup for us because we had a need obviously with Derrick going down and then Kirk going down,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. “And he had a need as well. So it was good for him and it’s been great for us. And he’s played better and better.

“The one thing that we knew because of the way he played here (in Charlotte), he was more than capable. For whatever reason, he wasn’t playing in Toronto, and it worked out for us. To his credit, he was ready when this opportunity came around. He hit the ground running. And it’s not just what he’s doing statistically, he’s also running our team very well.”

Augustin finished 9 of 19 from the field and 6 of 12 from 3-point range.

Three of the 3-pointers came in the fourth quarter. The Bulls led 57-55 going into the fourth and opened the quarter with a 10-2 run to push the lead to 10. They then kept the lead in double figures much of the quarter and still led by nine with 13.8 seconds left.

The Bobcats hit three 3-pointers in the final seven seconds, including one at the buzzer by center Al Jefferson, but Augustin’s two free throws with 2.7 seconds left made the shot at the buzzer meaningless.

“I just let the game come to me in the fourth quarter,” Augustin said. “We didn’t change anything. We just kept playing. We just kept running our pick-and-roll stuff and kept playing on defense, and it came out well.”

The Bulls also got 13 points from forward Taj Gibson and 12 points from forward Mike Dunleavy. Center Joakim Noah finished with 11 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists, just two assists from his fourth career triple-double.

Thibodeau was particularly pleased that the Bulls (22-21) bounced back from a 17-point home loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday night.

“This team is great,” Thibodeau said. “We talked about what happened last night and what we had to do today. That’s the best part about this team. They have great pride. They’re going to bounce back. They’re going to give you everything they have. For us, we’ve just got to keep scratching out wins and we can never lose sight of how hard we have to play in order to have a chance to win, particularly when you’re short-handed.”

For the Bobcats (19-27), it was another familiar script — a close loss that negated another outstanding effort by Jefferson.

Jefferson finished with 32 points and 13 rebounds, marking the ninth straight game in which he has scored 20 or more.

“For these last eight or nine games, nobody’s been better than him,” Bobcats coach Steve Clifford said. “He’s rebounding, scoring, he’s efficient, and he’s making the right plays.”

Jefferson, who missed nine games early in the season with an ankle injury, said he is now feeling fully healthy.

“I’ve been in the league a long time and I know when I’m healthy I play at this level,” he said. “At the beginning of the season, I wasn’t healthy. But I’m feeling really good, my ankle’s feeling really good, and this is what I can do when I’m 100 percent.”

The Bobcats also got 15 points from guard Jannero Pargo and 11 points from guard Gerald Henderson.

NOTES: This was the third game between the teams this season. The Bulls won the previous two, 86-81 on Nov. 18 and 103-97 on Jan. 11 in Chicago. … The Bobcats are without G Kemba Walker (sprained left ankle), F Jeffery Taylor (ruptured Achilles) and C Brendan Haywood (stress fracture left foot). … The Bobcats head out on a four-game West Coast trip starting Wednesday at Denver. They also play the Los Angeles Lakers, Phoenix Suns and Golden State Warriors on the trip. … The Bulls return home to face the Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday, then head out on a six-game trip with games at San Antonio, New Orleans, Sacramento, Phoenix, Golden State and the Lakers.