CHICAGO (AP) -- The latest victory by the surging Bulls was
different from their recent wins.
The Chicago spent the previous three weeks picking on teams with
losing records, most from the Eastern Conference, but they took out
one of the best in the West on Tuesday, staring Kobe Bryant and the
Los Angeles Lakers in a 94-89 victory.
"It's a good feeling to get a win against a team like that,"
Chicago's Ben Gordon said after the Bulls' 12th win in 13 games.
"That was big tonight," added rookie Thabo Sefolosha, who
helped contain Bryant. "We really needed that one. Tonight, we
really showed that we have a great team."
Luol Deng scored 23 points and tied a season-high with 12
rebounds for the Bulls.
Gordon hit two free throws to close out the win with 10.9
seconds left, after Smush Parker cut the Bulls' lead to three with
a foul shot and a dunk in the final 40 seconds. Deng hit 9-of-16
shots, and Gordon finished with 22 points as Chicago won its fifth
Bryant was a non-factor after scoring a combined 98 in the
previous two games. He was content to defer and finished with 19
points on 6-of-19 shooting before fouling out for the first time
since Dec. 1, 2005, in the final minute.
"The defense had a lot to do with it," Bryant said. "They
made me work for positions. They fronted me in the post, and they
did a great job."
"They just kept plugging away and beat us in a game that was
very lethargic," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said.
Down by as much as 11 in the third quarter, the Bulls took a
70-69 lead with just over a minute left when Deng crossed the lane
for a three-point play. And Chris Duhon fed Michael Sweetney for a
dunk and layup to start the fourth, making it 74-70.
The lead was 82-74 after Sweetney, who scored eight of his 11
points in the quarter, converted three-point play and Sefolosha
drove the baseline for a reverse layup that drew a loud reaction
from the fans. They perked up again when Bryant was called for two
fouls in a 20-second span with the Bulls leading 85-78 with less
than five minutes left.
Sefolosha (five points) shrugged off the layup, saying it was
"just a move in the flow of the game." On defense, he kept his
arms waving and gave Bryant little room late in the game.
"We just felt like giving Duhon a break for a couple of
minutes," coach Scott Skiles said. "Then, Thabo ended up taking
him until he fouled out. Kobe is one of the toughest covers there
is, and I thought we did a decent job on him. We just had trouble
on the rest of the guys."
After playing 18 of their first 24 games at the Staples Center,
the Lakers started a six-game, two-week trip short-handed. Forward
Lamar Odom, who had 23 points and 10 rebounds in a victory over
Chicago on Nov. 21, missed his fourth straight game with a sprained
ligament in his right knee and is not expected to return until next
Bryant, the NBA's fourth-leading scorer, seemed happy to set up
his teammates after scoring 53 in a double-overtime win over
Houston on Friday and 45 in an overtime loss to Washington on
He was 3-of-10 with eight points in the first half, but the
Lakers led 48-42.
"Last game, I couldn't miss from the 3-point line, and tonight,
I couldn't throw the ball in the ocean," said Bryant, who was
0-for-5 from long range.
The Bulls were without forward P.J. Brown, who missed his
fourth game with a strained right foot. The veteran is averaging
career-lows in points (5.3), rebounds (4.2) and minutes (16.5), and
has made it clear he's not happy in a reduced role. ... Jackson
still gets that strange feeling when he returns to Chicago, where
he coached the Bulls to six championships in the 1990s. "It feels
like it's just a breath away," he said. "We had some great
championship moments." ... The Lakers visit Minnesota, New Jersey,
Miami, Orlando and Charlotte before returning home.