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Nocioni, Bulls cruise past Grizzlies

Mar 5, 2008 - 5:21 AM CHICAGO (Ticker) -- Reserve Andres Nocioni wasn't going to let another huge lead slip away.

Nocioni scored 12 of his 20 points after halftime as the Chicago Bulls posted a 112-97 victory over the lowly Memphis Grizzlies on Tuesday.

Luol Deng and Drew Gooden each scored 21 points and Kirk Hinrich had 19 and 12 assists for Chicago, which has won four straight here against the Grizzlies and is 11-2 all-time against the Memphis franchise at the United Center.

"This is a very big win for us," Hinrich said. "We had a big lead at the half and handled it better tonight, this is the kind of game we have to build on."

The Grizzlies have dropped nine straight, their longest skid since losing 13 in a row to open the 2002-03 season.

"Obviously we are facing some adversity now," Grizzlies coach Mark Iavaroni said. "We still do not take a punch very well yet. We started out all right, we just couldn't sustain it."

The win also pulled the Bulls within two games of the New Jersey Nets (26-34) for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

"This is a win we really needed," Bulls interim coach Jim Boylan said. "We made up some ground on the teams that are ahead of us, it's a nice win from that aspect."

However, the Bulls had lost two straight, including a crushing 97-91 loss to the Washington Wizards last Friday. In that game, Chicago led 52-34 at halftime only to be outscored by 21 in the third quarter to eventually lose the game.

"We weren't going to let what happened against Washington happen again," Deng said. "Teams always make their run, and it's about how you answer it. Tonight we held them off and won the game."

In this game, the Bulls turned a comfortable 54-36 lead at intermission into a 69-39 advantage with 7:05 left in the third.

However, Memphis reduced its deficit to 75-62 on an alley-oop dunk by Rudy Gay with 2:15 left in the period.

Nocioni, who connected on 7-of-9 from the floor, immediately drilled a 21-foot jumper to put Chicago back up by 14 and his fast-break dunk with nine seconds left gave the Bulls an 83-67 advantage entering the final quarter. Nocioni also added eight points in the fourth.

Ben Gordon scored 16 points and Gooden hauled in 14 rebounds for Chicago, which shot 54 percent (44-of-82).

"The best all-around game we have had since I joined the team was our first half tonight," Gooden said. "We are still in a playoff race, so every game is important for us."

Kyle Lowry scored a career-high 24 points and Darko Milicic and Gay each scored 21 for Grizzlies, who shot 42 percent (39-of-92) and have dropped 15 of 16 overall and 14 in a row on the road.

"Tonight was a good night for me," Lowry said. "I had some layups and made my free throws. My teammates allowed me to get some shots up. All of that doesn't matter, though, since we lost."

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