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Wallace helps Bulls hold off Cavaliers

Feb 23, 2007 - 5:22 AM CLEVELAND (Ticker) -- Ben Wallace did it all against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Wallace had 14 points, 19 rebounds and a season-high seven blocks to lead the Chicago Bulls to an 84-78 victory over the surging Cavaliers.

Luol Deng added 18 points for Chicago, which has won two straight and snapped a six-game losing streak here.

Maligned all season after signing a lucrative free agent contract with the Bulls, Wallace played a defensive contest reminiscent of his days with the Detroit Pistons, but he also stepped up on the offensive end.

Wallace shot 6-of-8 from the floor, handed out five assists and added a pair of inside baskets which gave the Bulls a 77-71 edge with 3:38 left.

"All of that stuff doesn't mean anything if you don't get the win," Wallace said. "We got the win and that's all that matters, but I do like the blocks."

About two minutes later, the 41 percent free-throw shooter hit two from the line to extend the edge to 80-73.

"Without him tonight, we wouldn't have had a chance for sure," Chicago coach Scott Skiles said. "When he plays with that kind of effort, he can put up those kind of numbers. He was on right from the beginning of the game and as a result we left him out there most of the game."

Chicago improved to 10-18 on the road.

"On the road, we haven't been competing," Wallace said. "We've been walking into the other team's arena and going through the motions. We wanted to come out and put up a fight. We weren't worried about winning or losing, we just wanted to put up a fight, and I think everybody came out and did that."

Chicago was far from perfect, turning over the ball 22 times and committing 25 fouls, but may have caught a break since Cleveland had to travel after an exciting last-second victory at Toronto on Wednesday.

"If you are going to come in here and beat them when you have so many turnovers, and so many fouls, and headless play, it better be on a back-to-back," Skiles said. "That's why it's an important game. They had an emotional win last night and they got home late. They probably had a walk-through at the Arena this evening, just like we're going to have tomorrow. It's imperative that you get a win like that."

Deng also came up big for the Bulls. After Cleveland fought back from a 43-31 halftime deficit to take a 71-68 edge with 6:54 left in the game, Deng hit a 12-foot jumper in the lane and added two free throws to give Chicago the lead. He added a tough fallaway jumper from just outside the lane for a 78-73 edge with two minutes left.

LeBron James scored 11 of his 29 points in the third quarter as Cleveland closed within 64-62. Larry Hughes added 20 for the Cavaliers, who had won five of their previous six games. They shot just 28 percent (7-of-25) in the final 12 minutes.

"Down the stretch just versus a very good basketball team, we ran out of gas," Cleveland coach Mike Brown said. "I thought our guys gave all the effort they could tonight for playing the extended minutes."

After playing the first period even at 21-21, the Cavaliers fell apart in the next 12 minutes, as they shot 4-of-19 from the floor and turned over the ball eight times. James sat the first five minutes of the period and Cleveland scored just one basket - a 3-pointer by Donyell Marshall.

The Bulls pushed the lead to 43-27 on a jumper by Malik Allen, but a layup by Hughes and a pull-up jumper by James cut the lead to 12 at the half. James scored 13 points on 6-of-11 shooting in the first half, while the rest of his team scored 18 on 8-of-29 shooting.

"That second quarter killed us," James said. "When we settle, especially for quick shots, we are not a good basketball team," Brown said. The Cavaliers played their fourth straight game without starting center Zydrunas Ilgauskas, who is attending to a family situation. Guard Damon Jones (strep throat) and Sasha Pavlovic (flu) also did not play.

"We had three of our top eight guys on the inactive list with Z, Sasha and Damon," James said. "It's going to be tough for us to win a lot of basketball games without those guys in and it showed in the second quarter."

Chicago forward Andres Nocioni returned after missing seven games with a foot injury and scored five points in 15 minutes.

"He looked rusty for sure. His shot looked good," Skiles said. "He didn't make a good percentage, but it looked good coming off his hand."

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