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Bulls' backups make most of chance
Rookies and reserves often use exhibition games a little like a teenager practicing for a driving test. In their first experience in back-to-back games, the young Bulls drove without Mom or Dad in the car Saturday night before a crowd of 21,328 at the United Center in a 100-88 victory against the Pacers.
With three of the Bulls' five probable starters — Luol Deng, Ben Gordon and Joe Smith — reduced to spectator status, they sometimes had trouble figuring out when and how much to accelerate or change lanes.
They were good enough to pass against a similarly star-reduced Pacers lineup.
"I thought we had some good stretches," coach Scott Skiles said.
Skiles was interested to see his rookies respond to their first back-to-back games after a loss Friday night in Toronto, but a veteran helped them out.
Andres Nocioni guided the Bulls with 20 points on 7-of-9 shooting.
"That was the key to everything," Skiles said. "Noce came out and was knocking down shots."
Last season Nocioni missed 28 games with right plantar fasciitis.
"This game is good for my confidence," the 27-year-old said. "I feel great, like a 20-year-old."
Skiles has been slow to throw out compliments to Aaron Gray, who started.
"I wanted to make a change," Skiles said. "Aaron from the first day of training camp, of the group of young kids, has learned what we're trying to do better than the rest. He has learned the offense better than the rest, he knows his defensive positions better than the rest. He deserves an opportunity."
Gray played a total of 15 minutes 3 seconds, picking up his sixth foul and heading to the bench in the fourth quarter with 10 points on 5-of-7 shooting and eight rebounds.
The game did not finish without the Bulls adding a few more nagging injuries.
Thabo Sefolosha's hamstring tightened up, and Nocioni's right calf is ailing.
"We're pretty banged up," Skiles said.
After leaving Friday's loss to the Raptors with a bruised right wrist, Deng sat out as a precaution, he said. X-rays on the swollen wrist were negative.
Gordon has yet to play an exhibition game, nursing a sprained right ankle.
Tyrus Thomas went 6 of 10 from the floor for 15 points, with seven rebounds.
Joakim Noah was only 2 of 7 on field goals and struggled again with six turnovers, finishing with nine points and 10 rebounds.
Andre Owens scored 22 points to lead the Pacers, who were without the injured Troy Murphy, Jermaine O'Neal and Kareem Rush.
After a 23-turnover performance in Toronto, the Bulls committed 31 against the Pacers. Luckily for the Bulls, the Pacers committed 30 of their own.
"I don't think a game with 61 turnovers helps anyone," Skiles said.
LayupsThe Bulls also were without Adrian Griffin, who had a sore lower back. ... Smith's knee injury kept him out, but Skiles said he had hoped to play the 12-year veteran. "He didn't feel like he could go," Skiles said. "I intended on trying to get him some work, but I think he wants to be extra cautious right now." Smith logged 17 minutes 10 seconds Friday for seven points and three rebounds. .