Nocioni shrugged off a couple of hard fouls by Tim Thomas and Chris Kaman and scored 21 points, complementing Ben Gordon’s 25-point effort and leading the Chicago Bulls to a 92-73 rout of the banged-up Clippers on Saturday night.
“Clearly in both games he’s started, he gives us a presence out there with how assertive he plays. And his emotion and passion for the game rub off on other people,” coach Scott Skiles said.
The Bulls were ahead 39-25 midway through the second quarter when Nocioni committed a flagrant foul on Ruben Patterson as the Clippers forward drove the lane.
Patterson got right back in Nocioni’s face and had to be restrained by referee Courtney Kirkland, who wrapped his arms around him and dragged him all the way back to midcourt to calm him down. Patterson received a technical foul.
“I’ve got a mark on my face, and they shouldn’t allow that type of nonsense,” Patterson said, sporting a welt below his right eye. “He should have been kicked out of the game—and they gave me a technical foul for retaliating. If you look at the tape, he didn’t even try to swipe at the ball. He went straight for my face.
“He’s known for being dirty like that,” Patterson added. “It’s like what he did to Sam (Cassell) in Chicago when he hit him and damn near broke his nose. He’s just a dirty guy. And if the league keeps letting him get away with stuff like that, somebody’s going to get hurt.”
Nocioni told reporters afterward that he was just retaliating to Patterson’s aggressive play.
“I made a hard foul because he hit me with his elbow twice,” Nocioni said. “I don’t have any problems with him. It was just a situation in the game.”
The hostilities didn’t end with that play. On the Bulls’ next possession, Thomas blocked Nocioni’s path to the basket and used the opportunity to shove him away with both hands. Those two then had to be separated, and Thomas was called for a flagrant foul.
“That’s how it goes sometimes. You get mad and you try to protect your teammates,” Kaman said. “I thought Nocioni gave Ruben a pretty dirty hard foul. Ruben doesn’t stand for that kind of stuff and he’s not going to back down from anybody. Then Tim gave Nocioni a pretty hard foul at the other end.”
When play resumed, the Clippers were still down 42-26 with 5:29 left in the first half. Nocioni was flagrantly fouled again with 6:03 left in the third quarter—this time by Kaman, who shoved him to the floor from behind with his left elbow under the basket.
“I didn’t think mine was a flagrant foul, and I’m going to challenge it with the league,” the Clippers’ 7-foot center said.
“We’re upset by the loss,” Patterson said. “We’ve got a lot of injuries, a lot of guys hurt. It’s hard out there. I’ve still got my dislocated finger, so it’s still hard for me to get going because I can’t control the ball and do my thing. It’s frustrating, but we’ve got to keep on playing.”
After Patterson’s fast-break dunk cut Chicago’s lead to nine with 10 minutes remaining, the Bulls responded with a 9-0 run to build a commanding 81-63 lead with 6:39 left.
Ben Wallace, who had 13 rebounds, capped the run with a 3-pointer on his first attempt of the season from behind the arc and the Clippers did not challenge after that.
Clippers swingman Cuttino Mobley was 0-for-3 from the field in the first half and 3-for-10 overall. In the Clippers’ 97-91 victory at Chicago on Nov. 6, he was 10-for-10 in the first half and 13-for-17 overall.
“In the first game, we just weren’t alive mentally and we left him alone early in the game and he knocked down some shots,” Skiles said. “But tonight we didn’t leave him for good open looks. And then when he went into the post, we did a respectable job down there, too. They had a couple of lineups out there that allowed us to put size on him a little bit. I thought Kirk (Hinrich) did a much better job with him.”
Thomas, who set a club record with 13 attempts from 3-point range in Friday night’s loss at Golden State, made a pair of 3-pointers 28 seconds apart to slice Chicago’s lead to 51-40 and cap a 9-2 run in the final 1:27 of the half. One of those baskets resulted in a four-point play because of a foul by Gordon.
Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy still needs one more win to tie the franchise record Jack Ramsay set when the team was known as the Buffalo Braves. … Sunday is Cassell’s 38th birthday. … The Bulls beat the Clippers at Staples Center for only the second time in their past eight attempts.