|Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah (13) and Los Angeles Lakers center Dwight Howard (L) fight for a loose ball during the second half of their NBA basketball game in Chicago, Illinois, January 21, 2013. Photo by Jeff Haynes, Reuters.
(UPDATE) Despite missing leading scorer Luol Deng, the Chicago Bulls were able to heap more misery on the slumping Los Angeles Lakers with a routine 95-83 home victory on Monday.
Kirk Hinrich stepped up to deliver a solid all-around effort of 22 points, eight assists and seven rebounds as the scrappy Bulls outpaced Los Angeles in the fourth quarter to hand the disarrayed Lakers a ninth defeat in 11 games.
"It's been awhile I guess," Hinrich told reporters of his big offensive night. "I feel like it's about time. I was in a rhythm and just letting it go."
Deng missed his second straight game with a right hamstring injury but Chicago (24-16) still had the tools to prevail in front of their delighted home crowd.
Kobe Bryant extended his shooting slump, making just 7-of-22 shots for 16 points, while Dwight Howard found foul trouble as the visitors could not avoid another disappointing result.
Los Angeles (17-24), a star-studded roster struggling to find consistency, shook things up by starting forward Earl Clark in place of Pau Gasol but even that major adjustment failed to produce enough spark.
The Lakers fought from behind to tie the game at 75-75 with 7:26 remaining before Chicago surged with an 8-0 run followed by consecutive three-pointers from Marco Belinelli to seal victory.
Belinelli had 15 points off the bench as the Bulls got a strong team effort with six players scoring in double figures.
Joakim Noah also responded well to being benched during the latter stages of his team's previous loss, turning in an active night of six points, 13 rebounds and six blocks.
As for the Lakers, they trailed early before a run in the third brought them close but could only connect on 39 percent of their shots.
Howard had just eight points and nine rebounds in 30 minutes and Los Angeles lost a sixth straight road contest.
"I have to look at myself," said Bryant, who is shooting a dreadful 25-for-79 over his last three games. "Individually, we all have to take accountability and make the necessary adjustments."
Gasol responded to his benching by scoring 15 points and 12 rebounds when he was used, but his effort did little to rescue Los Angeles or sell him on his new role.
"I'm not excited about it," the Spaniard said. "(I've) never been coming off the bench. No matter what, I have to stay positive and do my best."
The arrival of standout center Howard has pushed Gasol out of the post as the team struggles to utilise him with new coach Mike D'Antoni indicating he liked his opening unit better with the smaller, faster Clark on from the start.
"I would say it's pretty set in stone," D'Antoni said of the line-up change. "Until I change it again." (Writing by Jahmal Corner in Los Angeles; Editing by John O'Brien)