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Nocioni's career-high 31 helps Bulls edge Hornets

Dec 2, 2006 - 4:05 AM OKLAHOMA CITY (Ticker) -- Andres Nocioni and the Chicago Bulls may be starting to turn the corner on a disappointing start to their season.

Nocioni had career highs of 31 points and 13 rebounds as the Bulls held on for their season-high third straight win, a 111-108 victory over the slumping New Orleans Hornets.

Luol Deng scored 21 points and Ben Gordon added 17 for Chicago, which made 12-of-21 shots from the arc.

Nocioni shot 12-of-23 from the field, including 5-of-9 3-pointers.

"I think I tried to take my shots with confidence," Nocioni said. "I got open against the zone; my team knows where I like to shoot from. When I got there, I tried to make my shots. I had a good night, but this was (a) good win."

"(Nocioni) shot the ball well and rebounded the ball well for us," Bulls coach Scott Skiles added. "They started in the zone and then stayed in the zone. That kind of allowed us to walk into some easy threes, and he was able to hit when he was open."

Kirk Hinrich, who scored 17 points, made his third 3-pointer to give Chicago a 107-100 lead with 22 seconds remaining.

Nocioni added two free throws and Hinrich and Gordon each made one to seal the win - Chicago's first over a team other than New York since November 11.

"It's a nice win for us, a win anyway we can get it good," Skiles said. "We made some big shots and some big plays, but we also made some plays that were not so wise, especially late in the game and when we had the lead which allowed them to get back in the game."

A pair of fantastic individual performances did not prevent the Hornets from losing their fifth straight game.

Rasual Butler made seven 3-pointers and scored a season-high 33 points for Charlotte, which shot 46 percent (36-of-78).

"Rasual was unbelievable for us tonight," Hornets guard Chris Paul said. "He knocked down big shots, and was lights out for a while there."

Paul had 25 points, a career-high 18 assists and 11 rebounds for his third career triple-double.

"It came in a losing effort," Paul said. "It would have felt a lot better to get the win."

"I love playing against the best and Chris Paul is a great player," said Hinrich, who shared point guard duties with Paul on Team USA last summer. "He is a tough player and he makes it hard to go against him every minute we are on the floor."

Nocioni scored 14 points in the second quarter, helping Chicago build a 59-47 halftime lead. Butler's 18 third-quarter points halved the deficit to 83-77 entering the final period.

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