The Chicago Bulls have climbed within a half-game of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, and now get the first of two shots in four days at the team they’ve been chasing when they meet the Philadelphia 76ers.
“This is a playoff game for us, probably one of the most important games of the year,” Bulls guard Chris Duhon said.
By winning three straight and five of six, the Bulls are right on the 76ers’ heels for that last berth in the East and could move even higher in the standings because they’re just 1 1/2 games behind seventh-place Indiana.
Chicago also plays at home Saturday against Philadelphia, which has put itself in such a precarious position by losing 11 of its last 15 games.
The Bulls surely would benefit if 76ers star Allen Iverson is not at full strength. The NBA’s second-leading scorer twisted his left ankle in a 124-91 loss to Cleveland on Tuesday.
“Yeah, I came down wrong,” said Iverson, who scored 38 points. “But we’ve got a game tomorrow and we’ve got to come to play.”
Philadelphia is 2-6 without Iverson in the lineup this season.
Chicago has gone 5-1 since moving Ben Gordon back to a reserve role after he had made 40 consecutive starts.
He scored 16 of his 23 points in the fourth quarter on Tuesday as Chicago overcame a 17-point deficit in the fourth quarter to beat Indiana 102-96.
Chicago has a 62-48 record in the last two seasons when Gordon, last season’s NBA Sixth Man of the Year, enters the game as a substitute. The team is 18-26 when the second-year player starts.
One of his jobs Wednesday could be to slow down Iverson, who has averaged 39.0 points in the last three games.
Philadelphia has won five of six at home against Chicago.