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Lakers' depth a problem for Bulls
By Mike McGraw | Daily Herald Staff

Andres Nocioni wears his pain on his face after turning his right ankle in the fourth quarter.

 

Ed Lee | Staff Photographer

Kirk Hinrich defends against the Lakers Kobe Bryant Tuesday.

 

Ed Lee | Staff Photographer

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Published: 12/19/2007 12:19 AM

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The Bulls finally found a Kobe Bryant trade they could live with.

The Bulls were able to swap Kirk Hinrich and Ben Gordon for Bryant in the first quarter of Tuesday night's clash at the United Center. All three players left the floor early with 2 fouls.

Of course, Bryant isn't used to getting picked on by the referees and wasn't given another foul the rest of the night. He was relatively ordinary against the Bulls, scoring 18 points while hitting 7 of 19 shots.

But the Lakers' depth hurt the Bulls for the second time this season. The visitors had six double-digit scorers and pulled away late to record a 103-91 victory.

"It was a fun night," Bryant said. "This is one of my favorite places to play. I'm just excited to come out of here with a win. Normally we play well for 3½ quarters, then stink it up for the last five minutes and lose."

The score was tied at 77-77 with 9:36 remaining, then the Lakers (15-9) erupted with a 20-6 run that included no points by Bryant. In fact, Bryant didn't score at all in the fourth quarter.

"We were laying close and made enough plays to do that," Bulls coach Scott Skiles said. "But right during a little 2½-minute span, we had a couple turnovers and we had a couple offensive rebounds and that was it."

One thing that stood out for the Bulls were the key players who never showed up. Luol Deng scored 20 of his 26 points in the second half. Kirk Hinrich held his own against Bryant with 17 points and 8 assists. Andres Nocioni contributed 14 points before turning his right ankle late in the game.

Then there were the two Bens.

Ben Wallace spent 13½ minutes on the court in the first half and collected zero rebounds.

Ben Gordon played the entire third quarter and attempted just 1 shot, a miss. Overall, Gordon scored 8 points and hit 3 of 9 shots, continuing a monthlong slump.

"It didn't seem like they were doing anything special," Gordon said. "I just didn't get enough shots."

Wallace was benched in favor of rookie Aaron Gray, and it was easy to see why. Gray finished with 8 points and 6 rebounds in 20 minutes. Wallace had 2 points, 5 rebounds and 2 blocks in 28 minutes.

"I've said it many times over the last three or four years," Skiles said. "We're the type of team, we need several players to play well. We appear to have two or three guys coming out of it. But we need everybody at the same time to be playing very well. So far we've been inconsistent with that."

The Bulls (8-14) showed some competitive spirit, but ultimately fumbled away too many offensive rebounds, coughed up too many careless turnovers and failed to recognize the hot hand of Lakers sub Sasha Vujacic (19 points).

The Lakers posted a 17-7 edge in the offensive boards and 21-10 in second-chance points. The Bulls also committed 18 turnovers that led to 24 points for the Lakers.

Deng missed Monday's practice with a sore back but refused to blame the injury for his slow start in the first half.

"I felt fine the whole game," he said. "I just try to do a better job of reading the flow of the game and step up in the second half."