Nocioni, Bulls Edge Paulís Hornets
Posted Dec 2 2006 12:17AM
Chicago 111, New Orleans/Oklahoma City 108
OKLAHOMA CITY, Dec. 1 (AP) -- It wasn't the way Kirk Hinrich wants the Chicago Bulls to finish a game, but it still netted exactly the result his coach was looking for.
Andres Nocioni scored a career-high 31 points, including two late free throws, and the Bulls held off a series of comebacks for a 111-108 victory over the New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets on Friday night.
Chicago allowed New Orleans/Oklahoma City to cut a 15-point, fourth-quarter deficit to two in the waning moments, but was still able to escape with its third straight win.
``That's the kind of win we need to get,'' Bulls coach Scott Skiles said. ``When you come on the road like this, no matter how you can get it, you've got to get it.''
Rasual Butler scored 26 of his career-high 33 points in the second half to lead the Hornets' comeback, and his seventh 3-pointer of the game got the Hornets within 109-106.
``We've got to get better at finishing the game and holding leads,'' Hinrich said. ``But some of those Butler was just on fire.''
When Butler finally missed, Tyson Chandler dunked on the rebound to make it a two-point game. Chicago's Ben Gordon hit one of two free throws with 2.4 seconds left, and Chris Paul's half-court shot for the tie was after the buzzer and off-target.
Luol Deng added 21 points for Chicago, while Hinrich and Gordon each scored 17. Nocioni also had 13 rebounds for his third double-double this season.
``We got some big shots and people had some big plays, but also on the other side we had some plays that we weren't very wise, to say the least,'' Skiles said.
Butler led New Orleans/Oklahoma City back with 11 points - including three 3-pointers - during a 15-3 run that pulled the Hornets within 83-77 at the end of the third quarter.
Hinrich returned from the bench and drove for a layup to spark a 9-0 answer by the Bulls at the start of the fourth quarter, but the Hornets weren't done yet. Reserve Pargo scored seven in a row to cut the deficit to 94-87, and the Hornets got within five on Paul's two free throws with 5:39 left
Gordon answered with a jumper and Nocioni hit his career-best fifth 3-pointer from the right wing to stretch the lead back to 10 with 4:40 to play.
That was just enough space for the Bulls to fight off another comeback attempt that included a two-handed alley-oop dunk by Desmond Mason. Butler's 3-pointer made it 107-103 before Nocioni hit two free throws with 13 seconds remaining to set up the closing sequence.
``If we're up eight or six with two minutes to go, we've got to keep attacking and realize that we've still got to score,'' Hinrich said. ``Obviously, we've got to get stops and rebounds but we still have to attack and be aggressive offensively.''
New Orleans/Oklahoma City scored more than 83 points for the first time during its five-game losing streak. The Hornets are without three of their top four scorers - David West (forearm), Peja Stojakovic (back) and sixth man Bobby Jackson (ribs) - and have dropped to last in the NBA in scoring.
``I think we showed a lot of fight in us, but at the end of the game we still didn't get the win,'' Paul said. ``It's all about wins and losses.''
The Bulls surged into the lead with eight straight points late in the first quarter and were ahead 45-31 after a 10-0 second-quarter run that included seven straight points by Gordon.
Chicago was up 59-47 at halftime after shooting 9-for-13 from 3-point range and led by as much as 80-62 after Deng's three-point play with 2:30 left in the third quarter.
Notes: Chandler and Pargo, who were acquired by the Hornets in offseason moves, traded hugs and handshakes with several Bulls players during pregame warmups. P.J. Brown, who was traded for Chandler, got a warm ovation when he entered in the first quarter. ... Bulls F Malik Allen was inactive with flulike symptoms. ... The Bulls' Ben Wallace, benched last week for wearing a headband, didn't wear one - but the Hornets' Jackson did.
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