Nocioni, Bulls Close Out Nets
Chicago 95, New Jersey 87
CHICAGO, March 7 (Ticker) -- By being aggressive, Chicago Bulls forward Andres Nocioni delivered a late blow to the New Jersey Nets.
Nocioni scored a career-high 24 points and led a fourth-quarter surge as the Bulls ended their woes against the Nets with a 95-87 victory.
"Nocioni brings a lot to our group in general," Bulls coach Scott Skiles said. "Sometimes he gets very uptight when he plays, but tonight I thought he played much more relaxed. He is very valuable to us when he plays like this."
Nocioni's dunk with 6:01 remaining sparked a decisive 11-4 surge that gave the Bulls an 89-79 lead with 74 seconds to go. He added two jumpers in the burst and scored nine points in the fourth quarter.
"His (Nocioni) energy and intensity causes problems for other teams," Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich said. "When he does that it goes a long way for this team."
Nocioni was not feeling well and left without speaking to the media.
Hinrich and Luol Deng scored 22 points apiece for the Bulls, who stopped an eight-game losing streak against the Nets.
"Finishing out games and finishing out teams is something we need to improve on," Hinrich said. "It starts by finishing out quarters and we did a good job of that tonight."
The trio of Nocioni, Hinrich and Deng were the only players to reach double figures for Chicago (27-33), which trails Milwaukee by 2 1/2 games for the Eastern Conference's final playoff berth.
"We feel like they are all must games now," Skiles said. "We have to put together a string of wins, but that will be tough to do."
In losing for the fifth time in six games, the Nets started and finished poorly. New Jersey missed 17 of its first 20 shots to fall behind by double digits, then misfired on 15 of its first 18 attempts in the fourth quarter, when Chicago took control.
"We are a better team than this," said Nets forward Richard Jefferson, who scored 16 points. "We just had a couple of stretches where we are struggling, every team goes through that."
Nenad Krstic scored a career-high 29 points and Vince Carter added 25 for New Jersey (32-28), which had its lead in the Atlantic Division over Philadelphia reduced to 1 1/2 games.
"We lost, so what can you say?" said Krstic, who made 13-of-20 shots. "So it doesn't matter that I got a career high."
After a dismal first quarter in which they scored just 12 points, the Nets shot 83 percent (15-of-18) in the second period to take a 44-42 lead into the break.
"We fought hard to get back in the game," Nets coach Lawrence Frank said. "We were up two at the half, and then the last six minutes we just couldn't do it."