Chicago 100, Boston 82

CHICAGO, Dec. 4 (AP)-- Teammates passed it around after the game. Some tried it on.

Ben Wallace wanted the rest of the Chicago Bulls to get a good look at his boulder-sized championship ring. And he wanted them to know they can win one, too.

While it's premature to plan a parade, the Bulls are living up to their billing as Eastern Conference contenders after a slow start. Andres Nocioni scored 20 points, and Chicago won its fifth straight, pulling away early on the way to a 100-82 victory over the Boston Celtics on Monday night.

With the Bulls at 8-9, Wallace decided for the first time to show his new teammates the jewelry he won with Detroit.

``This is why we suit up every night,'' Wallace said. ``We all want to be known as the best in the business. That's why you practice every day. That's why you travel from place to place. I'm just letting the guys know if I can do it - I was not supposed to be in this league - it can work for anybody.''

Up 17-14 in the first quarter, the Bulls went on a 13-point run. They were ahead 53-35 at halftime and led by as many as 30 in the third quarter.

After scoring a career-high 31 on Friday against New Orleans/Oklahoma City and 24 the following night against Washington, Nocioni was 8-of-10 from the field and grabbed seven rebounds on Monday.

Luol Deng scored 14 and held Paul Pierce to a season-low eight points as Boston suffered its third straight loss and fifth in six games. Eighth in the NBA averaging 26.9 points entering the game, Pierce shot 4-of-13 after bruising his right elbow in Friday's 106-102 loss to Toronto.

``You all can give us credit for playing well, but he might be injured,'' said Deng, who guarded Pierce.

But Pierce said he was fine and credited the Bulls, ``I thought they did a good job of defending me.''

Ryan Gomes scored 17 of his 19 points in the first half and finished with seven rebounds. Tony Allen scored 18 of his 20 in the second half, when the game was out of hand.

With second-leading scorer Wally Szczerbiak out with a sprained left ankle, Delonte West started and scored four points for the Celtics.

``We're just not a very good basketball team right now,'' coach Doc Rivers said.

Monday was the second of an eight-game homestand and a stretch of 22 of 30 at the United Center for the Bulls, who played 11 of their first 15 on the road. They saw an opportunity to build some momentum the next few weeks, and they're taking advantage.

The four wins have come against teams with losing records, and none of the opponents on the rest of this homestand was above .500 as of Monday afternoon. Even so, the Bulls barely resemble the group that had lost six straight before this win streak.

After pulling away in the second quarter of Saturday's 112-94 victory over the Wizards, Chicago didn't wait that long against the Celtics.

With a three-point lead, Michael Sweetney scored on a layup with 2:40 left in the first to start the onslaught. Kirk Hinrich hit a 3-pointer and added a three-point play with 4.9 seconds left to make it 28-14, when he was fouled on jumper from the wing.

Nocioni's layup on the first possession of the second quarter made it a 16-point game before Allen dunked to end the run.

Nocioni was 5-of-6 with 12 points in the half, and Deng and Hinrich scored 10 each.

Gomes did his best to keep the Celtics in it. Averaging 10.3 points entering the game, the second-year pro converted 6-of-7 shots, but no other Celtic had more than four points in the first half.

``When we're not shooting the ball, we've got to be steady on defense,'' Pierce said.

The Bulls moved the ball on offense and were able to get inside. They hit 37-of-79 shots, despite making only 4-of-18 3-pointers, and converted 19 turnovers into 31 points.

``The defense created offense for us,'' coach Scott Skiles said. ``But even in pockets where maybe our defense was not so good, we were still moving the ball and seeing the open man. In the last couple of games, we have started to look like ourselves and move the ball around the floor.''

Notes: Szczerbiak will probably miss Wednesday's game against Memphis, Rivers said. The forward, averaging 19.6 points, was injured at the end of Friday's game, when he landed on someone's foot while going for a rebound. ... At least one Chicago Bears fan does not want to see Brian Griese replace Rex Grossman as the starting quarterback. Rivers, who's from the area, made that clear, saying, ``Don't change. Don't change! They're 10-2.'' ... Monday's game was Chicago's seventh straight with at least 100 points. ... Bulls F Malik Allen was back with the team after missing two games with the flu and had four points and four rebounds in fewer than eight minutes.


Copyright 2006 by STATS LLC and Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited