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Bulls use balanced attack to keep Rockets at bay

HOUSTON (AP) -- The plan in the Chicago Bulls' huddle was simple:
Put the ball in Kirk Hinrich's hands and let him make a play.

It worked better than coach Scott Skiles could've expected, as
his leading scorer hit a driving layup with 1:32 left and fouled
out Yao Ming in the process to help Chicago to a 94-89 win over the
reeling Houston Rockets on Saturday night.

Skiles called a timeout to set up the play after David Wesley's
three-point play tied the game at 85. With the Houston crowd
cheering as loudly as it has all year during the team's 3-11 start,
Hinrich blew past Yao and got slapped on the way to the hoop.

"I was able to lift him off his feet and go by him," Hinrich
said. "He tried to grab me and luckily, I made the basket. He
about broke my back."

The shot made up for a bad shooting night for Hinrich, who
finished 2-for-10 for four points.

Stromile Swift missed two baseline shots at the other end and
Ben Gordon scored in the final minute as the Bulls sealed the
Rockets' seventh straight loss.

"It makes you mad that you fight so hard and at the end of the
game, you give up easy, uncontested layups," Houston rookie point
guard Luther Head said.

Gordon scored 18, Andres Nocioni added 17 and Othella Harrington
had 16 for Chicago, which won its final three games of a six-game
road trip and snapped a five-game losing streak to Houston.

Harrington's season-high point total directly resulted from the
Rockets' inability to stop the simple pick-and-roll. Repeatedly,
Bulls' guards drove into the lane, drew Houston defenders, then
found open men on the wings for wide-open looks.

"You can just lead every story with that: The Rockets can't
guard the pick-and-roll. I don't care where it is, we won't guard
it," Houston coach Jeff Van Gundy said. "It looks like we've
never drilled or worked on it."

The Rockets were pretty bad on offense, too, missing 18 of 22
shots in the third quarter.

They trailed by 15 early in the fourth quarter before Yao hit a
hook shot and a driving layup to trigger a Houston comeback.

The Bulls suddenly started self-destructing, coughing up three
turnovers in a minute, and Yao's turnaround from the baseline with
8:19 cut Chicago's lead to 75-69.

Chris Duhon turned a steal into a breakaway layup to push the
lead to eight, but Yao continued the rally with a free throw and a
three-point play.

He picked up his fifth foul with 4:51 left, then easily beat
Tyson Chandler on a post move to cut the Bulls' lead to 80-78.

Gordon sank a 3-pointer at the other end, but Yao scored over
Chandler again with 3:36 to go.

"Yao is a great player," said Chandler, who also fouled out.
"If it wasn't for him, we would've been able to run off with the
lead."

Nocioni hit an off-balance jumper from the baseline and Derek
Anderson scored to keep the Rockets within three.

Wesley then leaned into Hinrich and hit a jumper from the top of
the key, got fouled and sank the free throw to forge the tie.

Hinrich was the only Bull who touched the ball before giving his
team the lead for good.

"The plan was for me to come off the pick-and-roll and make a
play," Hinrich said. "If the play was to take the shot, then I
take the shot."

For a while, Harrington was the surprising go-to guy for the
Bulls. He came in averaging 4.9 points, but had 12 points at
halftime. He finished 7 of 13 from the field.

"That was really helpful early in the game," Skiles said of
Harrington's good start. "He got us going a little bit."

Yao went 9-of-18 from the field in the game and 12-of-14 from
the free throw line. He twisted his left ankle on a spin move late
in the first half. Trainers checked him during a Houston timeout
and Yao returned to sink two free throws.<
^Notes@:The Rockets are 0-4 in the second of back-to-back games this
season. ... Rockets star Tracy McGrady missed his fifth straight
game and eighth this season with a back injury. Guard Jon Barry sat
out with a bruised left foot. ... The Rockets have the NBA's
second-ranked defense (89.5 points per game) and the lowest ranked
offense (84.7 ppg). ...The Rockets' losing streak is their longest
since losing 15 straight in 2001.