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Big men play big, provide a spark
First, Ben Wallace unleashed his Afro. Then he unleashed his fury.
One night after he and P.J. Brown were either invisible or inactive, the two veterans tried to set the tone for the Bulls' 94-86 victory over the Hawks before a United Center sellout crowd of 22,390.Brown and Wallace combined to score 17 of the Bulls' first 23 points and were the team's leading scorers at halftime. This while leading scorer Ben Gordon, who later sat the entire fourth quarter, had more turnovers than points.
But the scrappy Hawks trailed just 53-49 midway through the third despite playing without injured Speedy Claxton or Tyronn Lue. The Bulls methodically pulled away and hung on despite 18 turnovers.
Brown finished with season highs in points (15) and minutes (37) and added nine rebounds. Wallace, who didn't play in the fourth quarter for the second straight night, had 11 points and seven rebounds.
The Bulls improved to 5-7 in January.
"We have a lot of areas we have to address," coach Scott Skiles said. "The main one, though, is to actually play a game like we know we have a bad record this month. [In Indiana], it didn't seem like we had the necessary intensity and passion to try to win."
For the second straight game and just the third time in his career, Chris Duhon didn't play by coach's decision. Duhon is shooting 15.9 percent overall and 7.7 percent on three-pointers this season, including 2 of his last 30.
"Sometimes it's best to take a game, step away," Skiles said. "And I also want to start getting Thabo [Sefolosha] more minutes. At some point, I have to find out if he can be a factor this season for us. We can use his length in the backcourt."
In general, Skiles shortened his rotation, playing only Andres Nocioni, Sefolosha and fellow rookie Tyrus Thomas off the bench. All five starters and Nocioni scored in double figures.
Thomas had seven points and five rebounds in 17 minutes while Sefolosha contributed five points and three assists in 23 minutes.
Luol Deng led the Bulls with 18 points. . . . Joe Johnson had a game-high 29 points for the Hawks and Marvin Williams added 22. . . . The Bulls committed just four fouls in the first half, one off the franchise record most recently accomplished in 2001 against the Celtics. . . . Michael Sweetney missed his second straight game with a bruised right shin. . . . The Bulls posted their two-lowest scoring outputs by the bench against the Jazz and Pacers before Nocioni struck against the Hawks. "One of the reasons I was reluctant anyway to put [Gordon] in the starting lineup is because I was worried about our bench points," Skiles said. . . . Think Chicago has Bears fever? An appearance by Staley, the team's mascot, drew a standing ovation during a timeout.