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Juggling act huge success
Scott Skiles didn't want the credit, despite making a lineup change that struck gold.
"When you lose four in a row, changing the lineup is a no-brainer," Skiles said.
Jamal Crawford passed credit to Kirk Hinrich, which seemed odd since Crawford scored 18 points but fitting since he had seven assists.
Hinrich didn't take the glory, either, crediting Skiles for installing a system that plays to his strengths and granting the freedom to exploit it for 18 points and four assists.
Somebody has to take credit for the Bulls' 86-75 victory over Indiana on Saturday night at the United Center, a shocker that jazzed a sellout crowd of 21,872 who watched the Eastern Conference's best fall. Maybe North Carolina coach Roy Williams can since he surprised Hinrich with his attendance and a postgame locker-room visit.
"You appreciate that he cares enough to come watch me," said Hinrich, who played four seasons under Williams at Kansas.
Skiles made sure Williams saw his former star early and often, starting Hinrich alongside Crawford for the first time this season and playing him 37 minutes. The ninth different lineup also featured Jerome Williams in place of Linton Johnson.
Williams contributed 10 points and 15 rebounds and helped the undermanned Bulls, who lost Eddy Curry to a bruised left knee, enjoy a 53-39 rebounding advantage. With Antonio Davis contributing 10 points and 10 rebounds, the Bulls had three double-doubles.
"Everybody knows we're short-handed, and to come out with that effort and be that physical is great," Skiles said. "We had energy. We have lively bodies."
Crawford and Hinrich were the liveliest during a 16-0 third-quarter spurt that helped the Bulls take command. Each scored six in that span.
"We have played well together," Hinrich said. "Since Skiles took over, I've felt a lot more comfortable."
Hinrich's drive and basket with 2 minutes 34 seconds remaining was the stuff of highlight reels. He split two defenders off the dribble and then hung in the air to lay the ball in after getting clobbered by Jermaine O'Neal.
Marcus Fizer, receiving significant time for the second straight game, added 15 points and 15 rebounds. He also drained a baseline jumper with 3:37 left when Indiana had trimmed a 13-point deficit room to eight.
Curry left with 1:11 to go in the first quarter after bruising his left knee 3:07 earlier. Curry absorbed a blow from Davis' head when Davis fell into him after trying to take a charge from O'Neal.
"It's stiff," said Curry, who will undergo an MRI test. "It hurt when I tried to cut."
A frustrated Eddie Robinson never got in and now has logged three minutes in the last two games.
Even with the win, the Bulls haven't improved from last season's 6-16 record after 22 games.
"In about 10 more years, they're going to be all right," joked former Bull Ron Artest, who led Indiana with 23 points and eight rebounds.
Crawford saw it another way: "This shows we can play with anybody."