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Bulls absorb 4th loss in row
Pick a mistake, any mistake.
Perhaps Ben Gordon's nonchalant pursuit of a defensive rebound with just less than a minute to play caught your fancy, seeing as how it led to a second New Orleans chance and two huge free throws by Bostjan Nachbar.
Maybe Tyson Chandler's rifle inbounds pass that bounced off Kirk Hinrich's head and into Dan Dickau's hands off Nachbar's second made free throw stood out, seeing as how it led to P.J. Brown burying a dagger of a jumper with 14 seconds remaining.
Or maybe just the inexplicable, somnolent start that featured the undermanned Bulls sleepwalking their way through the first 2½ quarters did the trick.
Whatever, the Bulls fell 94-90 to New Orleans Friday night at a sold-out United Center, the same Hornets who entered with a mere three road victories in 31 tries, the third-worst mark in the league.
The Bulls, who played without Eddy Curry and with a banged-up Hinrich, Chris Duhon and Andres Nocioni, now have lost four straight, their longest losing streak since the 0-9 start.
"They played harder and better than us," coach Scott Skiles said. "They deserved to win."
New Orleans took the lead for good on a lay-in by Jamaal Magloire with 93 seconds remaining. Magloire, who missed 51 games with a fractured right finger, tied Dickau for team-high honors with 17 points. Speedy Claxton added 14 off the bench.
After Nachbar's free throws and Brown's jumper made it 90-85, Hinrich sank two free throws with 9.8 seconds remaining.
Dickau followed with four free throws in the final 8.3 seconds, sandwiched around a Hinrich three-pointer.
Hinrich's gritty effort produced 27 points and five assists for the Bulls, who committed 21 turnovers, shot 37.7 percent and were outscored 44-10 in the paint. That's a season low for points in the paint.
Chandler added 13 points, 15 rebounds and five of the Bulls' season-high 12 blocked shots.
"We went with the three guards and tried to get something going offensively," Skiles said. "But even then, we went away from what was working and got into one-on-one battles."
The Hornets led 52-46 at halftime because their guards consistently beat the Bulls off the dribble, creating interior space off penetration.
The Hornets then came out smoking in the third quarter, hitting six of their first seven shots to lead by as many as 12.
He scored eight quick points in a 10-0 run, draining two three-pointers. The Bulls closed the third quarter with a 16-4 run to lead 69-68.
But New Orleans, which had been 0-42 when trailing after three quarters, refused to go away.
Brown scored seven points in a 12-0 run early in the final quarter as New Orleans took an 80-71 lead.
The Bulls responded with a 12-0 run of their own, with Hinrich scoring 10. Hinrich's back-to-back three-pointers capped the spurt, the second coming after Antonio Davis hustled down an offensive rebound and fed the gimpy guard.
Such highlights were long forgotten in a dejected postgame locker room.
"We have to play with more energy than teams," Hinrich said. "I don't know what it's going to take to make us learn. We can't keep doing this. It's too important to the franchise."