CHARLOTTE, N.C., March 31 (Ticker) --
The frontcourt tandem of
and Luol Deng
and a stellar second half by Chris Duhon
helped the Chicago Bulls finally get a convincing win
against the Charlotte Bobcats.
Nocioni scored 24 points and Deng added 21 while North Carolina
native Duhon netted 17 of his 19 after the break as the Bulls
posted a 113-107 triumph over the Bobcats.
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The victory allowed Chicago (32-40) to remain 1 1/2 games behind
Philadelphia (33-38) for the eighth and final playoff spot in
the Eastern Conference.
"Every game is important for us," Duhon said. "We have a big
one tomorrow (against Boston) and we have the opportunity to
play Philadelphia twice and gain two games on them. They're all
big from here. We've got to treat each game as if its a
"What you saw was a team that was fighting for their life in
terms of the playoff situation," Charlotte coach
said. "We didn't match their intensity on defense.
We weren't stopping anybody on the other end. They were
penetrating and getting easy shots."
Chicago lost two of the previous three meetings with Charlotte
(20-53), which owns the second-worst record in the NBA. In the
win, the Bulls needed to rally from a 23-point fourth-quarter
deficit to post a season-opening 109-105 overtime triumph.
, who scored 12 points in the first half, gave
Chicago the lead for good with a three-point play at the 4:24
mark of the second quarter, which started a 10-0 burst that gave
the Bulls a 31-21 advantage.
Chicago broke open the game at the end of the first half, when
an 11-0 charge to close the second period made it 67-43. The
Bulls shot 61 percent (30-of-49) in the first 24 minutes and got
44 points in the paint, compared to the Bobcats' 14.
"We just came out with a lot of energy," Deng said. "We knew
that they used a lot of small lineups and we wanted to dump the
ball in the post as much as we could and stay active. It was
very successful for us in the first half."
"We knew that wasn't our team in the first half," Charlotte
forward Jumaine Jones
said. "We've been known for going out and
competing and that was something that we weren't doing in the
Nocioni, coming off of a career-high 26-point effort Tuesday
against Orlando, had 13 points in the opening half. The
Argentine also finished with 11 rebounds before fouling out.
"I played a good game, but I'm happy because the team won,"
Nocioni said. "That's the most important. I played good last
game, but the team lost. For me, the most important thing is
Duhon's basket in the early stages of the third quarter gave
Chicago a 69-43 lead, its biggest of the game.
Charlotte responded by scoring 12 straight points, with
collecting five of his 15 points during the run. The
Bobcats eventually shaved the deficit to 76-67 with 2:11
remaining in the third quarter on a pair of free throws by
"You've got to be really skilled with the ball, you've got to be
sharp with your spacing, you've got to use your ball fakes, and
that's something we're still working on," Bulls coach
said. "They made it interesting for us."
Although Chicago regained a 16-point bulge shortly thereafter,
Charlotte did not allow the visitors to pull away. It again got
within nine points and was poised to draw even closer with just
under five minutes to go.
However, Duhon came up with a diving steal and buried a
3-pointer on the other end to make it 98-86 with 4:32 remaining.
Duhon added another shot from the arc 38 seconds later to make
it a 15-point game.
"They are a team that gambles and scrambles a lot in their
defense," Duhon said. "We caught them in a situation where they
weren't totally matched up, and we were able to find the right
guys for the open shots."
Jones scored 28 points and Wallace added 26 for Charlotte, which
got within five points three times in the last 33 seconds.
"We just came out slow and couldn't dig ourselves out of that
hole and get over the hump that we needed to," Jones said.
Chicago made just 5-of-16 shots from the floor in the final
period, but connected on 18 of its 24 free throw attempts to
seal the victory.
"We made free throws, they fouled us and we made free throws,"
Skiles said. "We were able to get a couple of baskets when it
was starting to get tight, and we held the off and kept them at
bay. It was really just making free throws."