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Hinrich, Deng lead way, but Bulls fall
Kirk Hinrich ditched a protective pad and blocked out pain from a severely bruised right thigh for 41 minutes Sunday night.
Afterward, he had to contemplate an even bigger pain.
Twenty-four points and 12 assists were next to his name in the box score, but they weren't enough to prevent a 102-93 loss to the Lakers at the Staples Center.
That means the Bulls are now 0-8 and must win Monday in Phoenix to avoid matching the worst start in franchise history.
The Bulls have lost 36 straight games on this annual extended November trip.
"You can't really explain it," a somber Hinrich said. "It's as frustrating as it gets. You work hard every day in practice. We haven't played well in two games. Every other game, we've had a shot to win. We really need to get one to help the team's psyche."
The Bulls were within 86-84 with 5 minutes 29 seconds left after Hinrich's fourth three-pointer of the second half.
But Lamar Odom slipped inside to score and draw a foul on Eddy Curry for a three-point play. And after Hinrich air-balled a three-point attempt on which he thought he'd been fouled, Caron Butler drained a wide-open three-pointer from the corner off penetration from Kobe Bryant with 3:19 left.
The Bulls hung around until Bryant's desperation three-pointer with 59.9 seconds left just beat the shot clock.
Bryant led the Lakers with 29 points despite shooting 8-for-17 from the line and committing nine turnovers. Chris Mihm added 18 points and 10 rebounds, seven of them offensive.
The Lakers enjoyed a 52-33 rebounding advantage and snared 19 offensive rebounds, keeping alive several important possessions.
"It's the third game on this trip we could've won," coach Scott Skiles said. "But when the time comes to make the big plays in order to win, we're not able to."
The Bulls were competitive early thanks to 17 first-quarter points from Luol Deng, who rebounded from poor back-to-back games against Golden State and Denver. But Skiles thought Deng tired as he finished with 21 points on 10-for-16 shooting.
Ben Gordon also looked unfazed by the pressure of playing in Hollywood, scoring 15 points and playing on the unit that made a third-quarter charge. And Curry added a double-double with 14 points and 11 rebounds.
Coach Rudy Tomjanovich and several Lakers players credited the Bulls for playing hard.
"We're not looking for any medals just because we stay in a game," Skiles said.
After the morning shootaround, the Bulls weren't even sure if Hinrich's bruised right thigh would allow him to play. The second-year guard participated in only half of the morning session, and Skiles said he limped badly.
But a full afternoon of treatment and some painkillers allowed him to suit up.
"It feels better, but cutting and changing direction is still tough," Hinrich said before the game. "I just don't have the movement that I want and the range of motion that I need. But I've played with worse pain."
Hinrich meant physically. Eight-game losing streaks to start a season create plenty of emotional scars.