LOS ANGELES (AP) — Joakim Noah played the final 6:53 with five fouls. Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau didn't want to take him out with the Bulls' double-digit lead slipping away, and that's just the way the All-Star center wanted it.
Noah finished with 18 points and 13 rebounds, and the Bulls held off the stubborn Los Angeles Lakers 92-86 on Sunday after nearly blowing a 19-point advantage. After picking up his last foul, Noah made a key block against 7-footer Chris Kaman and got a dunk at the other end — all in a 16-second span.
"It was too tight. Either we were going to win it with him, or that was going to be it," Thibodeau said. "At that point, I didn't think we could afford two or three minutes (with Noah on the bench), so we rolled the dice and were fortunate. We're a little short-handed right now — and the way they spread you out on the perimeter, you need guys that can cover ground."
Kirk Hinrich had 19 points and Taj Gibson added 18 for the Bulls, who never trailed against an injury-ravaged Lakers squad missing Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Jordan Farmar, Nick Young, Jodie Meeks and Xavier Henry. Gasol, who had a season-high 19 rebounds the previous time the teams met, missed his fourth straight game because of a groin strain.
Kaman scored a season-high 27 points off the bench for the Lakers, who won their previous two games following a 3-19 slide that buried them in the race for a Western Conference playoff spot. The 11-year veteran's point total was two off his career high, which came on Feb. 13, 2012, when he was playing for New Orleans against Dallas.
"He's been in the league for a long time, and he's one of the most skilled big men I've ever seen ever since I was in high school," Gibson said. "He has both left and right-hand hooks, a mid-range game — and once he's in a rhythm like he was today, it's really hard to stop him."
Point guard Steve Nash, playing his third game after missing 39 because of a nerve problem in his back, had eight points in 21-plus minutes before departing with 5 minutes left in the third quarter because of irritation in his left leg.
The 18-year veteran and two-time MVP, who celebrated his 40th birthday Friday with a team-high 19 points in a victory at Philadelphia, was hit on the same leg he fractured last season.
"It was just getting worse lately," Nash said. "But I wanted to play, especially when we are losing. You want to try to fight through it. I've been through that before and I know where it goes, so I didn't want to risk it. I think it was the smartest decision to come out."
Gibson, whose buzzer-beating layup in overtime gave the Bulls a 102-100 victory over the Lakers on Jan. 20 at Chicago, led the Bulls to a 52-46 halftime lead with 16 points. He made his seventh start of the season as Carlos Boozer missed his second straight game with a left calf strain.