Hinrich, Curry combine for 36 points in win

NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- Just one year removed from all those rookie mistakes, Kirk Hinrich is now knocking down momentum-changing shots for the resurgent Chicago Bulls.

Hinrich's team-leading 19 points included a 19-foot jumper that put the Bulls back ahead after they had squandered a 14-point lead, and Chicago held on for a 95-89 victory over the New Orleans Hornets on Wednesday night.

"Last year we'd start shaking in the last five minutes," said Hinrich, who boosted his scoring average to a team-leading 15.9 points per game. "Now it's the complete opposite. We're playing with a lot of confidence ... it's just kind of a mentality the team gradually developed and it makes it a lot easier."

Eddy Curry, who missed his last game with the flu, returned to score 17 points, including a reverse dunk on an alley-oop pass, helping Chicago win for the 11th time in its last 20 games after starting 0-9.

New Orleans, led by Baron Davis' 21 points, erased a 14-point deficit in the second half, but the Bulls clamped down defensively, forcing New Orleans to attempt a barrage of 3-pointers, most of which missed as the Hornets lost their ninth straight.

"What's more disheartening to me than anything is that with five minutes left you've got a two-point game and you play stupid basketball," Hornets coach Byron Scott said. "You've got to get the ball to the basket ... I don't know if our guys understand, but I had to remind them we're 30th (last) in the league in 3-point percentage. We just didn't play very smart."

Luol Deng scored 14 for Chicago, hitting a driving finger roll with 1:19 to go that gave the Bulls an 89-82 lead and forced the Hornets to start fouling. Reserve Ben Gordon added 11 points.

Curry and Antonio Davis each had nine rebounds, while Deng had eight. The Bulls outrebounded the Hornets 45-33 as they dropped New Orleans to 2-28, a pace that by season's end would eclipse the worst record in NBA history -- 9-73 by the 1972-73 Philadelphia 76ers.

Chicago's largest lead was 68-54 after a four-point possession that began when Davis was called for a flagrant foul against Deng on a steal attempt near midcourt. Deng made both free throws and Antonio Davis followed a missed shot with a dunk.

The Hornets, still down 11 entering the final quarter, opened the period with a 14-3 run, capped by back-to-back 3-pointers from Rodney Rogers and Bostjan Nachbar, to tie the score at 78 with a little under eight minutes to go.

But while Chicago continued to shoot poorly in the quarter, scoring only five points in the next four-plus minutes, the Hornets were even worse. New Orleans missed five 3-pointers and Nachbar's dunk attempt in traffic, scoring only when Junior Harrington hit 1-of-2 free throws to make the score 83-79 with 4:17 to go.

Chicago continued to pack the inside defensively, where the Hornets seemed to have no chance of scoring. After Nachbar's second 3 made it 85-82, Rogers had two layup attempts blocked by Chandler and then Curry. Rogers also missed yet another 3 while Chicago was able to build its lead with Hinrich's jumper, Curry's free throws and Deng's driving finger roll.

"We have become a good defensive team," Bulls coach Scott Skiles said. "We are holding opponents to 40 percent or right under."

The Hornets shot 36.6 percent, including 9-of-27 on 3-pointers.

Davis's 3 with 47 seconds remaining made it 89-85. When the Hornets started fouling, Chicago made free throws put the game away.

Rogers finished with 19 points for New Orleans, going 4-of-11 from 3-point range. Lee Nailon scored 14, while Chris Andersen and Nachbar each scored 10 off the bench.

Game notes
The Hornets re-signed Corsley Edwards, who had been waived on Monday, to a 10-day contract. ... Jim Jackson, acquired from Houston in a trade last week, still had yet to report, missing his third game since the deal that also sent Nachbar to New Orleans in
exchange for David Wesley. He has now lost more than $80,000 in pay by not showing up. ... The Hornets, who trailed 75-64 after three quarters, are 0-25 when trailing at the start of the fourth quarter. ... The Bulls have outrebounded their opponents in nine of their last 12 games, including the last four.

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