Bulls 95, Nets 86

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CHICAGO (AP)—The New Jersey Nets are fighting for homecourt advantage while the Chicago Bulls are short-handed and struggling to reach 30 wins.

Should be an easy one, right?

Jamal Crawford and Jay Williams combined for 33 points, 14 assists and 11 rebounds in their first start together, and the Bulls outhustled the Nets 95-86 on Friday night.

“We’re making an effect on the playoff race. That’s a fun thing,” said Jalen Rose, who finished with 23 points and 10 rebounds.

The loss wasn’t as costly for the Nets as it could have been, though. New Jersey came into the game tied with Detroit for homecourt advantage, but the Pistons lost Friday night, too.

Both teams still have three games left, though two of the Nets’ games are against playoff teams New Orleans and Indiana.

“We need to get ourselves together,” Nets coach Byron Scott said. “I’d like the guys to think about this game on the bus on the way to the airport, but to let it go after that.”

Don’t blame the Bulls if they think about this game for a while. Chicago has beaten some marquee teams this year, including the Lakers and Trail Blazers, but this could be its biggest win.

Not only did the Bulls beat one of the best teams in the East, they did it after falling behind in the fourth quarter. And they did it while dressing only 10 players.

“We came back and we showed some resilience, some heart,” said Crawford, who had 19 points, seven assists and six rebounds. “We respect coach (Bill) Cartwright. We’re not going to tank the season and not play hard for him. Guys came together and got a team win.”

All of the starters had a hand in this one. Williams had 14 points, seven assists and five rebounds, despite missing part of the fourth quarter to get three stitches after taking an elbow from Kenyon Martin.

Eddy Curry added 24 points and five rebounds, and Corie Blount had a season-high 10 rebounds in his first start. The Bulls have won 14 of their last 15 games at home.

“Guys probably counted us out, thinking it’s an automatic win coming in here,” Curry said. “But our season is far from over.”

The Nets needed this win, especially after losing to Atlanta on Wednesday night. But they came out flat, falling behind by 15 in the first half, and couldn’t match the Bulls’ energy when the game was on the line.

Jason Kidd had 12 assists and 11 points, but was just 3-of-12 from the floor. Martin had 29 points and eight rebounds.

The Nets shot just 40 percent from the floor and were outrebounded 46-34. The score would have been a lot worse if New Jersey hadn’t made its free throws. The Nets were 26-of-28 from the line, including 9-of-9 from Richard Jefferson.

“I don’t think the effort was there,” Kidd said. “We didn’t come through in the stretch. We had a chance, but didn’t make shots or stops.”

After falling behind early, the Nets got themselves back in the game with a 21-7 run in the third. Martin tied it with an alley-oop jam off a steal by Kidd, and Kerry Kittles followed with a pair of free throws to give New Jersey a 63-61 lead—its first of the game—with 4:13 left in the third.

Martin hit a 13-footer with 1:38 left in the third to give New Jersey a 69-63 lead, its largest of the night. But the Nets couldn’t hold onto it.

After Aaron Williams’ hook shot gave New Jersey an 86-81 lead with 4:58 to play, the Nets went cold, not making another shot the rest of the game. Jay Williams, meanwhile, hit an 18-footer to spark a 13-0 Chicago run.

“We had open, comfortable looks, but they didn’t happen,” Martin said. “They deserved to win. We played hard, extremely hard. But they made shots when they needed to.”

When Curry made a hook shot to tie the game, it brought his teammates on the bench to their feet. Williams followed with a nice driving layup, giving Chicago an 88-86 lead with 2:49 to play and sending the hometown fans into a frenzy.

And the Bulls weren’t done. After a timeout, Curry dunked on a no-look pass from Williams. Then, at the other end of the court, Crawford poked a pass away from Jefferson, and chased down the ball at midcourt for his own slam dunk.

“It’s very disappointing, because there were too many bad decisions toward the end,” Scott said. “We knew they were playing well at home, and they’re agood fourth quarter team. It’s frustrating to lose a game you should win.”


Bulls F Eddie Robinson was a scratch before the game with a migraine. … Bulls F Marcus Fizer, out for the rest of the season with a knee injury, got a technical in the third quarter for arguing with Kidd. … The Nets havelost 14 of their last 15 in Chicago.

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