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Bulls spoil O'Neal's return to action, defeat Pacers

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- Chicago's bench was too much for the Indiana
Pacers.

Reserve Andres Nocioni scored 20 points to lead a strong effort
from the reserves, and the Bulls beat the Pacers 101-89 Saturday
night.

The Pacers are hyping Fred Jones as a candidate for the sixth
man award, and Austin Croshere and Sarunas Jasikevicius are two of
the most accurate long-range shooters in the league. But the Bulls'
reserves outscored Indiana's 47-42 in Chicago's third game in four
days.

Chicago's starters weren't too bad, either. Tyson Chandler had
15 points and 14 rebounds and Kirk Hinrich added 16 points and
seven rebounds as the Bulls handed the Pacers their worst home loss
of the season.

"Our bench gave us a big lift, which really helped with all the
games we've played recently," Hinrich said.

Chicago's Chris Duhon, who scored nine points off the bench,
said the whole team was focused.

"Tonight, we really showed what we're capable of," he said.
"We wanted to come out with a strong effort from the beginning,
and I thought we kept it at a high level throughout the game."

Stephen Jackson scored 21 points and Croshere added 16 for the
Pacers, who lost for the second straight night and the third time
in four games.

Indiana's Jamaal Tinsley made a short jumper as time expired in
the first half to give the Pacers a 51-50 lead.

Chicago went on a 7-1 run early in the third quarter to take a
59-55 lead. The Pacers tied the game at 61 on a 3-pointer by
Croshere, but the Bulls finished the period on a 14-3 run to take a
75-64 lead. The Bulls' largest lead was 18 points with 6:08 left in
the fourth quarter.

"I don't think it shows much dignity to make excuses after you
get your butts kicked," Indiana coach Rick Carlisle said. "It was
like they're everywhere and our feet were stuck in mud."

Indiana forward Jermaine O'Neal struggled in his return after
missing three games with a sprained left ankle. He finished with 13
points and nine rebounds, but was just 4-of-11 from the field and
5-of-10 on free throws.

"It was a bad decision, definitely a bad decision to play," he
said. "But you get a most helpless feeling sitting on the bench
while your team is struggling."

Chicago outrebounded the Pacers 51-35. The Bulls grabbed 14
offensive rebounds for 17 second-chance points.

Chicago coach Scott Skiles said Chandler's effort was his best
of the season. Eight of his rebounds came on the offensive end.

"He set screens and got in front of the rim," Skiles said.
"He played with more energy on offense. And tonight was very
aggressive, unlike earlier in the year."

Indiana shot 3-for-15 and had eight turnovers in the third
quarter. The Pacers shot 32 percent in the second half.

"I simply don't know where we are, and that's hard to live
with," O'Neal said. "This is the most mind-boggling situation
I've ever seen."

Game notes
Jackson, the latest Indiana player to suffer through injury
or illness, played through flu-like symptoms. ... The Pacers have
used 17 different starting lineups. ... Chicago's Luol Deng was
ejected after picking up two quick technical fouls with 5:09 left
in the second quarter. He was arguing a no-call on his jumper on
the previous possession. ... Tinsley made his first start in 12
games after sitting out 11 with right elbow and biceps injuries. He
played 17 minutes off the bench Friday night against Minnesota. He
had seven points and three assists in 27 minutes Saturday night.
... Skiles left Michael Sweetney on the bench the entire game.
Sweetney came in averaging 9.8 points and 6.1 rebounds. ... A water
leakage set off the fire alarm shortly after the game ended.