CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Coach Scott Skiles has tinkered with his lineup all season, trying to find the right combination to spark the struggling Chicago Bulls.
The solution appears to involve Andres Nocioni.
Two nights after he scored 30 points off the bench, Nocioni scored 10 of his 15 points in the fourth quarter and added 11 rebounds as the Bulls rallied to send the Charlotte Bobcats to their seventh straight loss, 91-82 on Wednesday.
With Luol Deng controlling the inside with 30 points and Nocioni hitting big shots from the outside, the Bulls erased an 11-point third-quarter deficit by outscoring the Bobcats 38-22 in the fourth.
"I think we played the way the Chicago Bulls play, moving the ball, passing the ball," said Nocioni after only the Bulls' second road win in nine tries. "I think we played really hard defense."
Hard enough to stymie the free-falling Bobcats.
Gerald Wallace had 22 points and eight rebounds for Charlotte, but was on the bench with five fouls for the decisive 10-2 run early in the fourth quarter that gave Chicago its first lead.
Jason Richardson scored 17 points, but was shut out in the final quarter and Raymond Felton scored 17 points, but shot 5-for-14. The Bobcats had little presence inside as they extended the league's longest current losing streak.
It didn't help that Charlotte's offense was off kilter. The Bobcats took 26 3-point shots, hitting six, and center Emeka Okafor took only seven shots.
"We don't need 26 3-point shots. We need to try to get to the rim," coach Sam Vincent said. "We don't need the jumpers. We need to be trying to get the ball inside to Emeka even more."
The Bobcats, who haven't won since Nov. 19 against Portland, found out Wednesday morning that Cleveland had matched their offer sheet for 6-foot-10 forward Anderson Varejao.
Vincent has been pleading for another big man for months, and Charlotte's lack of depth inside was costly down the stretch.
"I worry about our confidence in terms of really understanding how to close out games," Vincent said.
In a matchup of coaches who were teammates at Michigan State and with the Orlando Magic, both Vincent and Skiles continued tweaking lineups.
But Dudley failed to score on 0-of-6 shooting and the Bobcats faded late in their second loss to Chicago in five days.
The Bulls overcame 20 turnovers, 10 of them in the third quarter as Charlotte built a 60-49 lead on Matt Carroll's jumper with 1:13 left.
Nocioni, who has seen his minutes fluctuate all season, scored seven points in the first five minutes of the fourth and his 3-pointer tied the game. Chicago took its first lead with 6:26 left on Duhon's driving layup, and Deng's putback on the next possession made it 72-68.
Wallace was watching from the bench with five fouls, but returned with just over five minutes left. He couldn't stop the Bulls from taking a 79-70 lead on Nocioni's jumper with 3:36 left.
"You're thinking about (the losing streak) in your mind, and then when things start to change, it's in the front of your mind," Wallace said.
Deng bested his previous season high of 29 points set against Charlotte on Saturday by making 10 of 17 shots and 10 of 13 free throws. And Deng was on the floor with some different faces late when Chicago put it away.
"I don't know anybody that wants to be in that position where you're always searching for combinations out there," Skiles said. "But unfortunately, that's kind of where we are right now."
|Luol Deng leads all scorers in this game with 30 points, helping the Bulls to just a second road win. (AP)|
|Chicago (5-11) «||21||18||14||38||91|
|CHI:L. Deng 30 Pts
CHI:A. Nocioni 11 Reb
CHI:C. Duhon 9 Ast
|CHA:G. Wallace 22 Pts
CHA:E. Okafor 10 Reb
CHA:R. Felton 6 Ast
|Players of the Game|
Chicago Bulls T-Shirt
$29.95 Shop Now!
|L. Deng, SF||43||10-17||10-13||5||0||3||30|
|B. Gordon, SG||34||5-11||1-1||4||5||5||13|
|J. Smith, PF||27||4-9||3-4||5||3||2||11|
|B. Wallace, C||22||0-3||0-0||8||1||0||0|
|K. Hinrich, PG||17||0-3||0-0||2||1||3||0|
|C. Duhon, PG||36||4-7||4-5||5||9||1||12|
|A. Nocioni, SF||28||6-12||1-2||11||4||4||15|
|J. Noah, PF||23||3-4||2-2||2||0||5||8|
|T. Thomas, PF||6||1-2||0-0||2||0||1||2|
|T. Sefolosha, SG||4||0-1||0-0||0||0||0||0|
|A. Griffin, SG||Did Not Play|
|V. Khryapa, SF||Did Not Play|
|J. Curry, PG||Did Not Play|
|A. Gray, C||Did Not Play|
|T. Gardner, SG||Did Not Play|
|Complete Box Score|
|J. Richardson, SG||40||7-16||0-0||5||3||5||17|
|R. Felton, PG||40||5-14||7-11||2||6||3||17|
|E. Okafor, C||37||4-7||2-4||10||1||2||10|
|G. Wallace, SF||36||8-15||4-8||8||0||6||22|
|J. Dudley, PF||21||0-6||0-0||2||1||3||0|
|M. Carroll, SG||21||3-7||1-1||1||0||2||8|
|J. McInnis, PG||15||1-2||0-0||3||3||1||2|
|W. Herrmann, SF||13||3-4||0-0||1||0||0||6|
|P. Brezec, C||11||0-1||0-0||4||0||3||0|
|D. Anderson, SG||7||0-4||0-0||1||0||0||0|
|O. Harrington, PF||Did Not Play|
|S. May, PF||Did Not Play|
|R. Hollins, C||Did Not Play|
|A. Morrison, SF||Did Not Play|
|J. Davidson, PF||Did Not Play|
|Complete Box Score|