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Deng, Bulls stay hot; win fifth straight vs. Lakers

Dec 20, 2006 - 6:46 AM CHICAGO (Ticker) -- Luol Deng and the Chicago Bulls made the Los Angeles Lakers their latest home victim.

Deng scored 23 points and grabbed a season-high 12 rebounds as the Bulls won their fifth straight game, posting a 94-89 victory over the Lakers.

Ben Gordon had 22 points off the bench and Chris Duhon added 11, six assists and lockdown defense on Los Angeles superstar Kobe Bryant, as the Bulls won their fourth straight home game.

After losing six of seven road games, including an 82-72 loss to the Lakers in Los Angeles in mid-November, the Bulls have won 12 of 13. They have won eight of their last nine home games.

Deng shot 9-of-16 from the field and made all five free throws.

Reserve Michael Sweetney scored 11 points - eight in the fourth quarter - and Ben Wallace had nine rebounds, seven assists and three blocks for Chicago, which shot 50 percent (39-of-78) from the field and moved within one game of Detroit for first place in the Central Division.

"Right now I think we are a little fortunate that we are shooting the ball well," Duhon said. "I am not trying to take anything away from the team but we need to be much more consistent on defense."

With the score tied at 70-70 entering the final period, Sweetney scored eight of Chicago's first 10 points to give the Bulls an 80-74 lead with 8:15 left in the quarter.

"Sweetney really gave the team a shot in the arm in the fourth quarter, he was great," Deng said. "Luckily in the second half we played a little better and shot the ball really well."

After a layup by Kwame Brown cut the Lakers deficit to 87-84 with 2:45 remaining, Deng made a basket to put Chicago back up by five with 1:59 left in the contest.

The Bulls' bench outscored the Lakers reserves, 42-22, and rookie Thabo Sefolosha also provided tough defense off the bench on Bryant.

"That's the way coach Skiles likes it, all the guys contributing," Gordon said. "It's good to get a win in a game like this. I think all good teams find ways to win games that are ugly sometimes."

"I thought Duhon and Sefolosha did a great job on Kobe," Bulls coach Scott Skiles said. "He is one of the toughest players in the league to cover and I thought we did a decent job on him, we just had trouble covering the rest of their guys."

Bryant scored 19 points and Kwame Brown added 18 and 12 rebounds for the Lakers, who shot 47 percent (36-of-76) and fell to 3-5 away from home this season.

"Kwame ended up with 18 points and had some easy layups at the basket because of how they played Kobe," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "Their style benefited other people but we did not take advantage of it."

Bryant shot just 6-of-19 from the field, and was 0-for-5 from 3-point range for Los Angeles, which missed 16 of 19 shots beyond the arc.

"I shot the ball like crap but their defense had a lot to do with it," Bryant said. "They made me work for positions and they fronted me in the post."

"Thabo and I did our best to put some pressure on Bryant," Duhon said. "We made him put the ball on the floor and work hard to put he ball on the floor. Our objective was to make the other guys beat us."

The eight-time All-Star scored a season-high 53 points on Friday vs. Houston and 45 against Washington on Sunday before being held in check by Chicago.

"It's funny, last game I couldn't miss from 3-point line and tonight I couldn't put the ball in the ocean sitting in a boat. You have nights like that, all you can do is bounce back the next game."

Bryant fouled out with 52 seconds remaining for his first disqualification since December 1, 2005 vs. Utah.

"I would like to foul out on a foul where I really fouled somebody," Bryant said. "I had my hand on the ball with a chance to block the shot and I pulled my hand back. I didn't want to risk getting my sixth foul but it happens."

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