Bulls 105, Nets 74
CHICAGO (AP)—Even injuries and illness can’t slow down the Chicago Bulls these days.
The Bulls won for the seventh time in eight games and moved within 2 1/2 games of Detroit for first-place Detroit in the Central Division and Eastern Conference. Chicago holds an edge over Cleveland for the No. 2 seed in the East as both teams stand at 46-31 but the Bulls own the tiebreaker.
The Bulls coasted despite being short-handed against the Nets. Center Ben Wallace missed his second straight game with sinus inflammation and the Bulls also played without reserve forwards Tyrus Thomas (flu), Andres Nocioni (foot) and Adrian Griffin (back spasms).
Kirk Hinrich knows how important the Bulls’ depth is.
“I guess it’s a good thing to have … guys that when called upon step up,” said Hinrich, who scored 20 points. “That’s kind of who we are, a team that relies on each other, including when guys are out, we rely on people to step up and we’ve been able to do that the last couple of games.”
After losing two games against the Nets after building 18-point leads this season, the Bulls took another 18-point advantage against the Nets in the first half. This time the Bulls added to their big lead.
Jason Kidd’s 3-pointer, cut the Bulls lead to 41-33 midway in the second quarter, but Hinrich and the Bulls answered with 10 straight points to take a 51-33 lead with 2:27 left in the quarter. Hinrich scored eight points, including the final six points.
“The last two times we played them we gave up big leads and allowed them to come back and win the game,” Gordon said. “Tonight we got up by about 15 and it was our main focus to not let them get back in the game.”
Gordon said he felt discomfort in his right wrist and will have it examined on Saturday.
With the loss, the Nets’ lead over Orlando was cut to one game for the seventh seed in the East. If the standings hold, the Bulls will play the Nets in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs. The Nets host the Bulls in the regular-season finale on April 18.
Vince Carter had 21 points for the Nets, who lost for just the second time in six games.
The Bulls put the Nets away for good by outscoring them 9-1 to start the fourth quarter. Chris Duhon made a 3 and Hinrich and Deng had back-to-back baskets to make it 88-63 with 8:48 left in the game. Rookie Thabo Sefolosha poured it on with a jumper to make it 100-68 with 3:30 left.
Kidd thought they had a chance to get back in the game like the previous two.
“We had an opportunity,” he said. “We were down 18. We got it to nine, I think, at one point. But we just defensively had breakdowns and they made big shots off offensive rebounds. So I don’t know if it was so much they remembered that we were down 18, but the big thing is we had our opportunity and we couldn’t get it done.”
Chicago led 53-38 at the half, with Hinrich scoring 16 points and Gordon 13.
The Bulls were impressive again, two days after beating the first-place Pistons 106-88 on the road. They shot 59.1 percent in the first quarter against the Nets while building a 31-20 lead.
“You get out of it what you put in. We didn’t put a whole lot into the game. You got to give Chicago credit. They beat us in every single facet of the game,” Nets coach Lawrence Frank said. “If you don’t play a good game, they can embarrass you. And that’s what they did.” ^Notes: Nocioni, who missed his 28th game with plantar fasciitis, will likely play Sunday at Toronto. Griffin missed his fourth straight game. … White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen and first base coach Harold Baines watched the game from a suite with Bulls and White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf. … The Nets have lost eight of their last 11 games on the road. … Nets F Richard Jefferson finished with 11 points. … Last season Chicago was 35-41 after 77 games.