<
>

Bulls send Nets to their fifth loss in six games

CHICAGO (AP) -- Andres Nocioni provided Chicago with more than just energy off the bench.

Nocioni scored a career-high 24 points and Kirk Hinrich added 22 points and nine assists to lead the Chicago Bulls to a 95-87 victory over the New Jersey Nets on Tuesday night.

Nocioni, who is normally used to give the Bulls a defensive presence and help with rebounding, handled the scoring duties on Tuesday night, by scoring 16 points in the second half.

"[Nocioni] brings alot to our group in general. His style sometimes can be detriment to the way he plays. Sometimes he gets so uptight, nervous and anxious but tonight he was much more relaxed," Bulls coach Scott Skiles said. "I could tell on his first couple of shots, that he was much more relaxed in the way he caught the ball and shot. He is very valuable to us all the time, especially when he plays like that."

New Jersey has lost five of its last six, including a 25-point loss at home on Monday night to Sacramento.

The Nets got little help in the fourth quarter from Vince Carter, who shot 3-for-10 in the period. He finished the game with 25 points, going 8-for-25 from the field. Jason Kidd had 13 assists and 10 rebounds, but scored just five points on 1-of-9 shooting.

Luol Deng finished with 22 points and eight rebounds for Chicago and Tyson Chandler fouled out with 15 rebounds.

The Bulls began a swing of four games in five nights this week and play at Detroit on Wednesday.

"This was an important game for us. We kept telling ourselves, 'Keep fighting, keep fighting," said Chris Duhon. "We wanted to keep the pressure on them and we were able to do that."

With the score tied at 73 in the fourth quarter, Chicago used a 16-6 run to put the game away.

Nenad Krstic finished with a career-high 29 points and 13 rebounds for New Jersey and Jefferson finished with 16 points and 10 rebounds.

Krstic was limited to four field goal attempts in the fourth quarter and scored four points.

"Nenad had a big game and they paid more attention to him down late. He was the hub and energy and kept us in the game early," Carter said.

The Nets started the second quarter down 12 points, but Krstic quickly got them back in the game. Trailing 27-14, the Nets outscored the Bulls 13-0 during a three minute span early in the quarter. Krstic made a jumper and Jefferson hit a 3 to tie the score at 27 with 6:55 left in the quarter. Krstic scored six points in the span.

The Nets hit 12 of their first 13 shots in the quarter and finished the quarter by shooting 15-for-18. New Jersey had 13 assists in the quarter and Kidd had eight of them. He also had six rebounds. Krstic scored 14 points on 7-of-8 shooting.

The Nets couldn't take advantage of the hot shooting second quarter, who made shot just 29.2 percent in the fourth quarter.

"We got back in the game, but in the fourth quarter we couldn't make a shot and on the other end they did and they separated," Kidd said. We just could not make an outside shot -- we could not make the 3 when we had it. We had great looks, but they just didn't go down for us."

Nocioni hit a jumper as time expired in the second quarter to get the Bulls within 44-42 at half.

The Bulls led 24-12 at the end of the first quarter. They scored 14 straight points to take a 16-4 lead on Malik Allen's jumper early in the quarter. The Nets shot just 26.3 percent in the quarter. Deng scored 10 points in the quarter for Chicago.

Game notes
Krstic played the entire first half and had 19 points and five rebounds. ... The Bulls play at Detroit on Wednesday night, their first meeting since Skiles and Detroit guard Richard Hamilton exchanged words on the court in their last meeting. ... Deng scored 10 points in the first half on 5-for-6 shooting. ... New Jersey
snapped a five-game streak of allowing 100 or more points. ... The Bulls snapped an eight-game losing streak to the Nets.