Chicago 118, Seattle 108

SEATTLE, Feb. 4 (AP) -- A cortisone shot and three miserable days in bed without any desire to eat. That was Joe Smith's unlikely prescription for a big night.

Smith returned to the starting lineup to score 25 points and the Chicago Bulls defeated the Seattle SuperSonics 118-108 on Monday night. He had been sidelined for two games last week with a sore knee and then the flu.

"Constant headache. Sore throat. Chest pains. Shivers. Sweats," the 12-year veteran said of what he had in the days before Chicago's second victory in six games.

"I'm still fighting it a little bit."

Tell that to Seattle. Its soft interior defense made Smith look like the healthiest man on the floor.

Then again, the passive Sonics made almost everyone in a Bulls jersey look great. After a three-game spate of unusual defense spawned a season-best three-game winning streak, Seattle reverted to the usual, slacking ways that made it tied with Denver as third-worst in the league in allowing points (103.9 per game) entering Monday.

The Bulls, still playing without second-leading scorer Luol Deng and Monday's final quarter without slashing point guard Kirk Hinrich, also got 20 points from Ben Gordon. Hinrich added 15 points before leaving with a rib injury, while Andres Nocioni and low-scoring rookie Aaron Gray each had 14 in Chicago's third-highest scoring game of the season.

"They are not overly talented, so to speak, but they keep coming after you," said Wally Szczerbiak, who led Seattle with 21 points off the bench.

"If you're not ready to play, they are going to punch you in the mouth. We can really learn a lot from this team."

Chicago interim coach Jim Boylan said Hinrich, who also had five assists and repeatedly pushed the ball into Seattle's soft middle before he left, was to stay in Seattle to get tests at a hospital instead of joining his teammates on the postgame flight to Portland. The Bulls play there Wednesday.

"I don't know the extent of the injury. I think they are just being cautious," Boylan said.

Seattle, which also got 20 points from rookie Kevin Durant, still hasn't won four in a row since April, 2006.

"We got outplayed at every position," said Seattle coach P.J. Carlesimo, who added he was "very disappointed."

"If you score 108 points, you should be able to win the game. We scored 108 and weren't even in it."

Boylan said he wanted to start Smith, who had scored nine points in 16 minutes off the bench Saturday at Sacramento while admitting he still felt sick, because he wanted the 12-year veteran's scoring early in games. That is especially true with Deng still out indefinitely with an Achilles injury.

Joakim Noah had averaged 10 points while starting the previous three games for Smith, but Boylan said he likes Noah's rookie energy coming off the bench.

Smith roamed free while getting eight points in the first eight minutes and 14 in all in the first half, as Chicago twice built 10-point leads.

Seattle got no closer than to within five after halftime. Earl Watson made a 3-pointer and Kurt Thomas scored his only basket of the night to begin the second half. Consecutive 3-pointers by Nocioni and Hinrich plus a layup by Smith put the Bulls back up 64-54.

When Seattle got to within 77-71 late in the period, Gordon converted a three-point play and Noah had a tip-in and free throw to make it 82-71.

And when Luke Ridnour's 3-pointer got Seattle to within 91-84 with 8:41 left, Chris Duhon answered with consecutive, long 3's -- his first two baskets of the game. Smith's easy layup while roaming free in the lane had Chicago cruising 103-91 with four minutes remaining.

Smith was 9-for-18 shooting, after making just 2 of 12 in his previous start, Jan. 27 in a loss to Phoenix.

"I was knocking down shots before the game, in warmups," Smith said. "I knew this might be a good one."

Notes: Sonics C Robert Swift made both shots that he took in five minutes. It was his first action since Nov. 11 because of continued soreness in his surgically repaired right knee. The 7-footer was replacing Thomas, who played 17 minutes before leaving with a scratched right eye. Thomas said he was fine afterward. ... Sonics rookie G Jeff Green missed his second consecutive game with a sprained left ankle. ... Bulls F Tyrus Thomas was inactive because of a sprained left foot.

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