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(Almost) everybody gets into the act
Nothing like throwing out three new starters when consistency has been as elusive as victories.
Thanks to Andres Nocioni's suspension, Ben Wallace's back injury and Chris Duhon's shooting woes, the Bulls unveiled their fifth different lineup Saturday night at the United Center.
Even after a 111-66 blowout of Memphis, just the Bulls' second win in seven games, expect a different lineup Monday against San Antonio.
Ben Gordon, whose bid for a second Sixth Man of the Year Award could be permanently derailed by starting, seized his opportunity with 24 points in just 27 minutes and will keep Duhon on the bench.
"I just tried to stay aggressive," Gordon said.
Coach Scott Skiles confirmed before the game that had Nocioni not been suspended one game for elbowing New Jersey's Mikki Moore, Skiles would have brought him off the bench to replace Gordon's scoring.
"You can't have all your scorers in the starting lineup," Skiles said. "Some teams do that. But we don't feel comfortable doing that. On a night you're struggling to score, then where do you go?"
The Bulls didn't have that trouble against a Memphis team playing its second game in as many nights.
Getting energy early from several players, including rookie Tyrus Thomas in his first start, the Bulls scored a season-high 71 first-half points on 58 percent shooting and later led by as many as 46.
Even a team that has been blowing leads like crazy couldn't surrender that on a night it posted season highs in assists, rebounds, steals and margin of victory.
The blowout allowed the starters to play limited minutes with a Monday matinee on tap. Kirk Hinrich had 20 points and eight assists in 30 minutes. Luol Deng added 18 points in 25 minutes.
"We've been struggling on the perimeter with our ballhandling and decision-making," Skiles said. "We were on."
P.J. Brown started at center for Wallace and teamed with Michael Sweetney to do a solid job on Pau Gasol, who shot just 4-for-14 in scoring his 16 points.
"They were great," Skiles said. "Gasol is a tough cover."
Memphis had been averaging 117 points in Chicago native Tony Barone's seven games as coach. But the Bulls, who quietly have crept to fourth in opponents' field-goal percentage, limited the Grizzlies to 30.4 percent shooting, best by the Bulls this season.
Skiles used all 11 players, including Duhon, who is now two for his last 28 on three-pointers. Solid team defense and the league's third-best assist-to-turnover ratio had kept him ahead of Gordon until Saturday.
"Ben has proven he can come off the bench or start and doesn't have to prove anything anymore," Skiles said. "Starting him is a way for me to get him more minutes. And hopefully the other guys won't be looking at him all the time waiting for him to come and save the day."
The best guess is that Skiles will return to the lineup that went 3-3 over the season's first six games, though Sweetney's 13 points and 11 rebounds could have him taking Brown's spot at forward when Wallace returns.
Brown, whose minutes have fluctuated wildly, is averaging 5.7 points and 5.6 rebounds as a starter.
Another Bull enjoying his get-out-of-jail-free status is Viktor Khryapa, who has been inactive 14 times. Playing meaningful minutes for the second straight game, Khryapa scored a season-high 12 points.