CHICAGO (AP) — Kirk Hinrich scored a season-high 22 points, Marco Belinelli added 15 points, and the Chicago Bulls pulled away down the stretch to beat the struggling Los Angeles Lakers 95-83 on Monday night.
Belinelli came up big in the closing minutes, scoring eight points during an 18-4 run that broke a 75-75 tie and sent the Lakers to their ninth loss in 11 games.
He started it by hitting two free throws after getting fouled by Dwight Howard with 6:54 left in the game and wrapped two 3-pointers around a layup by Los Angeles’ Earl Clark, making it 89-79 with 2:27 remaining.
The Lakers have now dropped six straight on the road, and this one came after coach Mike D’Antoni shook up the lineup. He moved forward Pau Gasol to a reserve role and replaced him with Clark, but the slide continued on a night when Kobe Bryant and Howard were mostly nonfactors.
Hinrich hit 9 of 11 shots and nailed three 3-pointers. Belinelli and Nate Robinson (11 points) also hit three, and the Bulls were 9 of 17 overall from long range.
Joakim Noah added 13 rebounds and a season-best six blocks after sitting out the final 22 minutes, 53 seconds of Saturday’s loss to Memphis.
Carlos Boozer chipped in with 14 points and six rebounds. Richard Hamilton scored 13, although he shot just 6 of 18. Jimmy Butler, making his second straight start with Luol Deng (sore right hamstring) sidelined, scored 10. And Chicago won this one in regulation after playing three straight overtime games.
Steve Nash led the Lakers with 18 points, but Bryant finished with just 16 on 7-of-22 shooting. That ended a run of 24 games with 20 or more points.
Howard, meanwhile, had just eight points and nine rebounds while picking up five fouls. Clark and Metta World Peace scored 12 apiece, and Gasol added 15 points and 12 rebounds in his new reserve role.
D’Antoni made the switch because he wanted a quicker lineup. Even so, it was an eye-opening move, considering Gasol scored 25 at Toronto on Sunday.
“It isn’t against him, it’s better for us right now,” D’Antoni said before the game. “We’re going to try to work through it and see what we can do. Things do change, things happen, I can’t see the future but we’re ready to go forward.”
NOTES: Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said star PG Derrick Rose is “very close” to starting full contact drills in practice, the next step in his recovery from a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. Could it happen this week? “Yeah — it could,” Thibodeau said. Is it scheduled to happen this week? Thibodeau said, “It could.” He also said Rose will have to go through full-contact drills “for an extended amount of time” and that he won’t be playing after “one or two days of contact.”
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