Young Bulls spark thriller

Tribune staff reporter

For three quarters, Tim Floyd found himself in a very familiar spot, on the wrong end of a double-digit deficit at the United Center.

But this being the post-dynasty Bulls, nothing is easy, Floyd or no Floyd.

In command for three quarters, the Bulls had to sweat to hold on for a still-impressive 89-84 victory over New Orleans, ruining Floyd's second trip here with the Hornets. The former Bulls coach now is 1-2 against his old team.

Getting multiple good games, in particular, confidence-building ones from Jamal Crawford and Eddy Curry, the Bulls jazzed a raucous crowd of 19,664.

Crawford's extremely difficult fallaway jumper over Darrell Armstrong with 28 seconds remaining helped the Bulls hold off a furious Hornets rally from 22 points down.

"We needed this one," said Crawford, who played the entire fourth quarter for the second straight game after being benched for the entire fourth in the previous two.

Crawford's 20 points led the Bulls. Curry added 19, including 13-of-14 from the free-throw line, as he consistently powered inside to draw fouls.

"I kind of backed off extra conditioning today to see if I was able to get my legs back for the game," Curry said. "I felt good."

The Hornets, paced by Baron Davis' 29 points, used fourth-quarter runs of 15-4 and 11-4 to rally from a three-quarter funk. Davis' three-pointer in Kirk Hinrich's face with 2:17 remaining trimmed the deficit to 85-83.

After a Crawford turnover, Stacey Augmon split two free throws with 57.1 seconds remaining to make it 85-84.

Crawford atoned with his fallaway, and after a timeout, Curry rejected a P.J. Brown drive to the basket for his first blocked shot since Dec. 12. "A huge play," coach Scott Skiles said.

The Hornets retained possession, but Davis was forced to try a wild three-pointer with eight seconds left that went long. Crawford rebounded it and iced matters with two free throws.

"Playing with heart and passion, we didn't do that," Floyd said.

The Bulls led 58-38 after their highest-scoring first half of the season, breaking open the game with an 18-2 spurt midway through the second quarter.

Curry capped the run with back-to-back dunks on pretty passes from Crawford, one of them an alley-oop. Hinrich added five points in the run.

Before the game, Floyd praised Hinrich, whom he signed to a letter-of-intent at Iowa State before leaving to coach the Bulls. Hinrich, who had 11 points and five assists, eventually played at Kansas.

"I've been a big fan," Floyd said. "I've tried to watch him a lot. I think he was a great selection who has played with a lot of poise and a lot of toughness. He's a guy who doesn't back down and has a high skill level."

Ronald Dupree, in his third NBA game, again flashed his skill level, finishing with seven points and four assists in 26 minutes. He also started the second half in place of Kendall Gill, who played only eight first-half minutes after going 0-for-6.

Dupree joined a spirited bench effort that outscored the Hornets' subs 44-29. Eddie Robinson and Corie Blount each contributed eight points and seven rebounds.

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