for this game

Hinrich shines off bench to lead Bulls past Heat

Feb 15, 2008 - 6:44 AM By Rory Spears PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

CHICAGO (Ticker) -- Kirk Hinrich did all he could to make sure the Chicago Bulls finished the first half of the season on a positive note.

Hinrich poured in 22 points off the bench and Joe Smith chipped in 19 and 11 rebounds as the shorthanded Bulls posted a 99-92 victory over the Miami Heat on Thursday night.

Andres Nocioni scored 18 points and second-year guard Thabo Sefolosha contributed 17 and 11 boards in helping the Bulls draw within 1 1/2 games of Philadelphia for the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference.

"This is a great way for us to end the first half of the season," Bulls coach Jim Boylan said. "We were shorthanded again (and) Kirk was just outstanding coming in off the bench."

It was the ninth consecutive loss overall and 12th straight road defeat for Miami, which has just one win since Christmas.

"This is how it has been all season," Heat coach Pat Riley said. "We played well in the second half; in the end the game came down to one or two plays."

With Luol Deng (Achilles), Ben Gordon (wrist) and Ben Wallace (family death) sitting out, Chicago relied on the efforts of Hinrich, who was playing in his second game after missing three due to sore ribs.

"Many guys stepped it up tonight," Sefolosha said. "Kirk came in off the bench and really did a great job, he really gave us a lift."

Hinrich's 23-footer gave the Bulls an 81-72 edge with 6:35 left in the fourth quarter. But the Heat battled back to close within one on Dwyane Wade's jumper off the glass at the 4:54 mark.

The Bulls pushed their lead to 89-84 after Tyrus Thomas split two from the free throw line with 2:45 remaining. Marcus Banks drilled a 3-pointer to slice Miami's deficit to two with 2:30 to go.

"When we were down two we still had a chance," Wade said. "Then we got a steal and didn't score. They came back and scored, that one possession changed everything."

However, Chicago pulled away from there as Hinrich knocked down an 18-foot jumper, sparking an impressive 12-5 surge to finish the game.

Wade collected 30 points, seven boards and seven assists and Shawn Marion netted 23 for the Heat, who committed 18 turnovers.

"This was one of my best games in Chicago," Wade said. "It would have been better to get the win, but at least I know I can play well here."

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