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Nash injured in Lakers' loss

The SportsXchange

LOS ANGELES - The Los Angeles Lakers suffered another injury, and the Chicago Bulls added to the Lakers' woes on Sunday.

The Bulls extended the Lakers' misery at Staples Center with a 92-86 victory over Los Angeles before an announced crowd of 18,997.

Guard Kirk Hinrich led the Bulls with 19 points, while center Joakim Noah and forward Taj Gibson scored 18 apiece. Noah had a game-high 13 rebounds.

In addition to the loss, the injury bug that has hurt the Lakers also season struck again. Point guard Steve Nash left the game in the third quarter with nerve irritation in his left leg and did not return. Nash will be re-evaluated Monday.

"It was just getting worst lately," said Nash, who had been ailing all season with back and leg problems and had not played since November before returning Feb. 4 against the Minnesota Timberwolves. "I wanted to play, especially when we are losing, you want to try to fight through it. I have been through that before and I know where it goes, so I didn't want to risk it. I think it was the smartest decision to come out."

Nash, who finished with eight points and two assists in 21:14 of playing time, suffered a fracture near the same area of the leg last season.

"I hope tomorrow I can wake up and jump right back into it," he said. "Hopefully, that nerve will just settle down and I'll be OK. It's been a tough road, so I won't take anything for granted, but I think tomorrow I should be much better."

Chicago (25-25) handed the Lakers their fifth consecutive loss at home. The Lakers (18-33) have dropped eight of their past 10 games, and the Bulls defeated the Lakers for the fifth time in the last six meetings.

Noah was particularly effective in the second half, scoring 14 points and grabbing eight rebounds.

"I thought he started the game slow but he just kept working the game," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. "Then he got it going his way the second half. He played tough and smart. He was terrific."

So were the rest of the Bulls, particularly Hinrich, who also had three steals, and point guard D.J. Augustin, who came off the Bulls bench to score 15 points and record six assists.

"I thought a lot of guys stepped up," Thibodeau said. "Taj Gibson got some points in the paint in the first half. I thought Mike Dunleavy made some big plays, Jimmy (Butler) was solid. He guarded everybody and made some big plays down the stretch. Tony (Snell) was really good in his minutes. We needed everybody."

Reserve center Chris Kaman scored a season-high 27 points and pulled down 10 rebounds for the Lakers. Reserve forward Jordan Hill had 15 points, while point guard Kendall Marshall added 13 points and 11 assists.

"Ultimately, the most important thing is to try to win," said Kaman, who connected on 13-of-23 field-goal attempts. "We've struggled lately and we're trying to get some sort of level ground where we can come out with some W's."

Los Angeles closed to within 88-84 after a dunk by forward Wesley Johnson with 48.3 seconds remaining. But Augustin stole a pass by Lakers guard Steve Blake with 23.9 seconds left and was fouled.

Augustin hit two free throws with 21.1 seconds remaining and added two more with 9.3 seconds left to secure the win for the Bulls.

"They were hitting shots. We have to do a better job as a team, just being ready," Marshall said.

The Bulls swept the season series between the two clubs. They also posted a 102-100 win in overtime on Jan. 20.

NOTES: Bulls F Carlos Boozer missed his third game with a left calf injury. He is listed as day-to-day. ... Lakers PG Jordan Farmar, who did not play, is day-to-day with hamstring soreness, but probably will not return until after the All-Star break. ... Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau, on the firing of Detroit Pistons coach Maurice Cheeks: "Obviously a close friend of mine. Disappointed. It's one of the bad parts of the business." ... Chicago C Joakim Noah had 38 rebounds and 35 points in the past two games against the Lakers entering Sunday's contest. He had 21 boards (seven offensive) in the Bulls' victory over the Lakers on Jan. 20. ... The Bulls visit the Atlanta Hawks on Tuesday before capping the first half of the season at home Thursday against the Brooklyn Nets. ... Los Angeles hosts the Utah Jazz on Tuesday and the Oklahoma City Thunder on Thursday.
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