Chicago 107, Seattle 101

SEATTLE, Feb. 2 (AP) -- There were 208 points and 76 baskets. After all, this is the NBA.

Yet all anyone wanted to talk about afterward was defense.

Luol Deng had 27 points and 12 rebounds, Andres Nocioni supplied the pivotal scoring down the stretch and Kirk Hinrich wowed Seattle's Ray Allen with relentless defense that the Chicago Bears could use later this weekend in the Bulls' 107-101 victory over the struggling Seattle SuperSonics on Friday night.

"Our defense was disgusting for the most part in the first half. But we got a lot more active in the second half," Chicago coach Scott Skiles said after his team's fourth win in five games.

No one was more active -- perhaps all season against Allen -- than Hinrich. And Hinrich threw in 20 points and nine assists, just for balance.

"I'd imagine he'd have to be pretty tired right now," said Allen, who scored 29 points despite 9-for-28 shooting against Hinrich.

The Sonics lost for the fifth time in six games since a season high-tying three-game winning streak. They are now answering questions about whether coach Bob Hill will soon be fired.

"It's kind of the same thing," Hill said of Seattle's latest fourth-quarter collapse. "We didn't have any trouble scoring -- until the fourth quarter."

The primary reason the Bulls are 1-1 on their seven-game trip through the West is Hinrich's nonstop shadowing of Allen. Seattle's 27-points-per-game scorer tried picks, feints and every tactic short of WWE tricks to get open. But he couldn't shake Hinrich.

"Ever since I've been playing, I've had a defensive mind-set," said Hinrich, the 26-year-old former Kansas star.

Allen played in neon-yellow Air Jordans fresh out of a box he said was stored in the foyer of his home. Those blinding shoes may go back in the foyer.

Allen missed 14 of his first 19 shots -- a day after the six-time All-Star was snubbed from the newest All-Star team. His 19 misses overall were his most in a game this season.

In the third quarter, when the Bulls turned what was once an eight-point Seattle lead into a nine-point Chicago edge, Allen scored one point and missed all six of his shots.

"I know I was trying to lose him, but in the first half every shot I took, he was right there," Allen said.

And the first half was when Allen scored 16 points.

Then Chicago made the first six baskets of the second half. Deng, who ferociously attacked the basket all night, had three of those -- including a thunderous, fast-break dunk after a pass from Hinrich.

Seattle made its answering charge behind Luke Ridnour's successive 3-pointers early in the fourth quarter.

After Ridnour's second three rattled in to tie it at 83, the embattled Hill pumped both arms while Ridnour and Earl Watson exchanged leaping hip bumps.

The Sonics got the lead back with 3:23 left following Allen's 3-pointer and Nick Collison's two-handed dunk plus free throw. Collison's play, which gave Seattle that 97-95 edge, came off Ridnour's gorgeous, leaping bounce pass from under the basket.

But Seattle then went nearly three minutes without scoring. That's when Nocioni woke up.

He had five points through three quarters. But after Seattle took that 97-95 lead, Nocioni made two free throws, then completed a three-point play to put Chicago back up for good 102-97 with 1:22 remaining.

The Bulls got an unexpected boost when center Ben Wallace decided he could play. At the morning shootaround, he had told Skiles that he felt "uncomfortable" moving laterally on a right knee he bruised last Saturday against Miami.

But the four-time NBA defensive player of the year started -- though he wasn't much of a factor. He missed his only shot, had two rebounds and one blocked shot in 23 minutes.

"It didn't hurt, but I was trying too hard to protect it," Wallace said of the padded knee.

In his previous game against Seattle on Dec. 13, Wallace had season highs of 15 points and 20 rebounds and added five blocks.

Skiles said trainer Fred Tedeschi is concerned Wallace may not yet be ready to play on consecutive nights. But Wallace said he will play Saturday night at Portland.

"Oh, no. I'll definitely be ready tomorrow," Wallace said.

Notes: The emerging Collison had 20 points and 12 rebounds for his eighth double-double in 11 games. But he fouled out with 44 seconds left. ... Hill said Rashard Lewis, Seattle's second-leading scorer who missed his 20th consecutive game because a tendon injury in his right hand, has been cleared to practice and could play next weekend. ... Hill, responding to speculation he may soon get fired for a third time in his nine NBA seasons as a head man: "You know, when coaches get fired, you don't die. YOU DON'T DIE." Hill is 39-60 in 13 months since taking over for Bob Weiss.


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