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Duel to Chandler, triumph to Bulls
Even with three of the Hornets' four leading scorers out with injuries, the Bulls needed late free throws to win 111-108 Friday night at the Ford Center.
It took a career-best performance from Andres Nocioni to give the Bulls their third consecutive victory. He scored 31 points, hitting five three-pointers, and also had 13 rebounds.
The Hornets very nearly gave Tyson Chandler a triumph over the Bulls in his first appearance against the team he played on for five years.
Chandler finished with only two points, but he pulled down a game-high 17 rebounds.
Rebounds were one of the reasons the Bulls traded Chandler and obtained free agent Ben Wallace.
Wallace, suffering from a stiff neck, sprained right finger and sore right wrist, played nearly 33 minutes but had just four rebounds and one point.
"That's the kind of win we need to get," Bulls coach Scott Skiles said. "Coming on the road like this, no matter how you can get it, you have to get it."
Are the Bulls playing better or are they playing the right teams at the right times?
"We had some big shots made by people and some big plays, but we also had some plays that probably weren't very wise, especially late in the game and especially when we got in the lead," Skiles said, "We started taking quick shots."
The Bulls led by as many as 18, but what was a 10-point lead with just more than 3½ minutes left faded to just two in the final seconds.
The Hornets were without three of their top scorers with Peja Stojakovic (back), David West (forearm) and Bobby Jackson (ribs) all out.
The Bulls jumped ahead early, hitting nine first-half three-pointers, but Rasual Butler scored 26 of his 33 points in the second half to get the Hornets back in the game.
And Chris Paul also kept the Hornets in it with a triple-double, getting 25 points, 11 rebounds and a career-best 18 assists.
Chandler said before the game that he was hoping to get more involved offensively, but "it seems like every day I'm learning something new and every day I'm getting a little bit better."
Even with Wallace's recent struggles, Chandler said the trade that brought him to the Hornets and freed up the Bulls to sign Wallace would turn out to be good for both sides.
"Eventually it's going to work out for them," Chandler said. "The deal is good for both teams. They feel like they needed experience on the defensive end."
Chandler is glad he's not the only ex-Bull playing for the Hornets.
Less than a month after he was traded to the Hornets, the team signed Jannero Pargo, who spent two-plus seasons in Chicago.
"It's almost like changing schools," Chandler said. "So to come in with somebody [you know], it's kind of like you have that comfort zone."
Pargo finished with 18 points, nine on free throws.
When former Hornet P.J. Brown entered the game with just less than five minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, the crowd in Oklahoma City gave the 14-year veteran a warm ovation. Team owner George Shinn, was among the group that stood and applauded Brown when he entered.
The game was a homecoming of sorts for Bulls television analyst Stacey King. King was a star for the 1988 University of Oklahoma team that lost to Kansas in the NCAA tournament championship game.