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Nocioni leads Bulls to fifth consecutive win

Dec 5, 2006 - 4:07 AM CHICAGO (Ticker) -- Andres Nocioni has the Chicago Bulls finally heading in the right direction.

Nocioni scored 20 points to lead five players in double figures as the Bulls pushed their winning streak to a season-high five games with an easy 100-82 triumph over the Boston Celtics.

Despite adding key free agents and draft picks this summer, Chicago started just 2-9, including a six-game slide. However, the Bulls have turned things around since, averaging over 100 points during their winning streak.

"I hope so," Bulls coach Scott Skiles said of his team jelling. "We are starting to put together some consistent stretches of quarters, minutes and possessions one right after another."

"It's all about trust," Chicago center Ben Wallace said. "This team got its trust back of each other and we are starting to play well."

In the first quarter, the game was tied at 9-9 with 6 1/2 minutes remaining before Chicago took control for good, closing the period on an impressive 19-5 burst. Kirk Hinrich netted eight of his 11 points in the quarter.

"You could say we spent the whole night trying to get out of the hole we dug ourselves in the first quarter," Boston coach Doc Rivers said. "We just played awful. The Bulls played tough and executed very well. They played like they wanted the game much more than us."

Chris Duhon connected on a jumper from the left corner as the buzzer sounded to help Chicago open a 53-35 advantage at intermission.

"It was just a case of me getting to the corner and Kirk finding me," Duhon said. "Boston was jumping at every shot all night so I gave one pump fake then let it fly."

Luol Deng scored 14 points and Ben Gordon and rookie Thabo Sefolosha combined for 20 off the bench for the Bulls, who won their sixth straight game in the series.

"If we keep playing like this we can play with anybody," Deng said. "We are getting better every day, especially defensively."

Ryan Gomes and Tony Allen scored 19 points apiece for Boston, which shot 40 percent (29-of-72) from the field and dropped its third consecutive game.

"Gomes played great but other than that there were not a lot of guys out there for us," Rivers said. "A big difference was that they got the 3-point plays. This would have been a great game for us to come in and make a statement, and we didn't make that statement. There are only two guys on this team playing well, Paul (Pierce) and Wally (Szczerbiak) at least offensively. We need some other guys to step up."

Pierce was held to just eight points on 4-of-13 shooting.

"They defended him (Pierce) very well," River said. "Deng crowded him all night. Paul needs some help out there."

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