Hinrich, Bulls outscore Bryant, Lakers

The SportsXchange

CHICAGO -- Filling in at point guard while Derrick Rose recovers from knee surgery, Chicago Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich is taking the job of distributor seriously, so much so that he scored in double figures just eight times in his first 34 games.

On Monday, Hinrich dropped in a season-high 22 points, hitting nine of 11 shots from the field as the Bulls beat the Los Angeles Lakers 95-83 at the United Center.

"It's kind of been an afterthought for me all year," Hinrich said of his scoring. "I'm trying to run the team and do my job. I had a few more looks tonight. It seemed like every time I came off (the pick-and-roll), I had a good look and I was in rhythm, so I was just letting them go."

This was a game when something had to give. The Bulls started the night a mediocre 11-11 at home this season, while the Lakers were 5-13 away from the Staples Center. Monday's defeat was Los Angeles' sixth road loss in a row.

With the game tied 75-75 midway through the fourth quarter, Chicago scored eight consecutive points. The Bulls (24-16) finished the game on a 20-8 run.

Hinrich nailed a couple of jumpers, then Jimmy Butler drained a long turnaround as the shot clock expired to put the Bulls ahead 83-75 with 4:11 remaining. After the Lakers ended the 8-0 run, Bulls guard Marco Belinelli knocked down back-to-back 3-pointers to make it 89-79 with 2:26 left.

"Hinrich has played well all year in terms of running the team," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. "His defense is always outstanding. I thought it was just a matter of time before he starts knocking shots down."

Belinelli finished with 15 points for Chicago, while Carlos Boozer had 14, Richard Hamilton 13, Nate Robinson 11 and Butler 10.

Lakers star Kobe Bryant finished with 16 points, ending his streak of scoring 20 or more points at 24 straight games. He shot 7-for-22 from the floor, including 0-for-6 on 3-point attempts.

"Thibs, every time he faces me, he actually does a great job defensively," Bryant said, referring to Thibodeau. "Most of the looks I had tonight were tough shots. Some of it's credit to the young fella. He did a really good job, Butler, defensively. A lot of that's on me and on us having to try to manufacture something from the low shot clock, and it's tough."

Bryant was asked his feelings about the state of the Lakers, still out of playoff position in the Western Conference with a 17-24 record. He basically apologized to Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Phil Jackson for stinking up the United Center.

"It's embarrassing," Bryant said. "I'm a big history guy. Playing here in this arena with these incredible fans, in the house that MJ, Pip and PJ built -- to put this kind of brand of basketball on the floor is just not acceptable.

Steve Nash led the Lakers with 18 points and six assists, but he had trouble staying with the usually low-scoring Hinrich. Lakers forward Pau Gasol finished with 15 points and 12 rebounds after learning that he would remain a backup permanently. He was playing his third game since coming back from a concussion.

Gasol has expressed displeasure in the past about coming off the bench, but coach Mike D'Antoni said they discussed the decision.

"That's life. He understands," D'Antoni said.

The Bulls led by 11 points in the second quarter and 10 in the third, but the Lakers made a move. One-time Bulls forward Metta World Peace knocked down a 3-pointer, Gasol drained two jumpers, and then a Bryant fast-break layup capped a 20-8 run and put the visitors up 69-67 with 25.6 seconds left in the third.

Lakers center Dwight Howard had a quiet night, other than when he got tangled up with Bulls backup center Nazr Mohammed in the second quarter, which resulted in a technical foul on Mohammed. Howard wound up with eight points and nine rebounds.

"We beat them in almost all categories but 3-point shooting," D'Antoni said. "It was not only our shots not falling, we just didn't have a lot of flow and movement."

The Bulls made nine of 17 attempts from 3-point range, while the Lakers were 3-for-17.

Thibodeau said before the game that injured Derrick Rose could return to full practice this week, but he warned everyone to remain patient about the guard's return.

"He has to go through that (full-contact practice) for an extended amount of time," Thibodeau said. "It's not going to be, 'OK, one or two days of contact and he's going to be out there.' That's not going to happen."

NOTES: Bulls forward Luol Deng missed his second straight game with a right hamstring strain. Thibodeau offered no update other than saying Deng was day-to-day and feeling better. ... Lakers forward Earl Clark, starting in place of Gasol, scored 12 points. ... If Bryant, 34, finishes with the league's scoring title, he'd be the second-oldest scoring champ in league history, behind Jordan, who was 35 when he won in 1997-98. However, Bryant lost the NBA scoring lead with his 16-point performance, as his average fell from 29.6 to 29.2. Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant is the new leader at 29.5. ... Boozer was named Eastern Conference player of the week Monday after averaging 23.0 points and 14.8 assists in four games.
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