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Robinson provides spark as Bulls hang on to beat Magic

The SportsXchange

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Bulls might have been low on energy as a team, but point guard Nate Robinson never seems to slow down.

Robinson hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to end the third quarter, then added 12 points in the fourth to help rally the Bulls to an 87-86 victory over Orlando on Friday at the United Center.

Chicago continues to push Brooklyn for the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference and home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. The Magic lost its 10th straight road game.

"Nate, he's key to this team, the offense he brings and the way he can completely shift the momentum of the game," Chicago forward Jimmy Butler said. "I think that's big on any team and Nate's that for us."

With the score tied 78-78, Luol Deng, Vladimir Radmanovic and Robinson knocked down 3-pointers on three straight possessions, giving the Bulls a nine-point lead. Chicago did not score, though, over the final 3:50.

Orlando didn't give up, responding with an 8-0 run and pulling within 87-86 with 1:33 left on a fastbeak dunk by DeQuan Jones.

With a chance to take the lead, the Magic went to Nikola Vucevic in the post, but he had the ball swatted out of his hands by Carlos Boozer. On the other end, Robinson missed a jumper, giving Orlando another chance with 23.8 seconds on the clock.

Beno Udrih tried to make a play, but ended up falling down between three defenders in the lane, turning the ball over. The Bulls managed to play keep away until time expired.

Asked what he would have liked to see Udrih do differently, Magic coach Jacque Vaughn showed a good sense of humor, despite a frustrating season.

"I would love for him to jump up and dunk that thing," Vaughn said. "If we could have orchestrated that, I would have loved that. You just want a shot at the end. He did a great job all night of penetrating the basketball, creating for himself and others. He tried again at the end of the game. Good defense."

Deng and Robinson led the Bulls with 19 points each, while Kirk Hinrich added 13. Udrih led Orlando with a season-high 27 points, but didn't score in the fourth quarter.

The Bulls were playing their fifth game in seven nights and it showed. They shot a pitiful 21.7 percent from the field in the first quarter. Orlando wasn't much better (31.6 percent) and led 19-14 at the end of one.

"We got in late (after beating Brooklyn on Thursday), but that's part of the league," Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau said. "It was a sluggish game, but we found a way to win and held on at the end."

With both teams struggling to find much offense, one hot hand was all it took to make a difference. Udrih knocked down 6 of 9 shots and scored 18 points in the third quarter, sending Orlando to an eight-point lead.

Thibodeau responded by giving the defensive assignment to the 6-foot-7 Butler, who played the entire fourth quarter. That meant when Robinson checked in, he guarded 6-foot-8 Orlando forward Tobias Harris.

"Man, it just seems that way. My teammates, they're always there with me," Butler said. "I always say it's never, ever, ever just me in any matchup. If it's a point guard, if it's a post for that matter -- my teammates are always there if I'm beat. I am beat on some plays. I just get all the credit for it. I think it's a five-man defensive matchup.

NOTES: The only change in Chicago's injury report came when Thibodeau said before the game he thinks Joakim Noah (plantar fasciitis) and Marco Belinelli (abdominal strain) are "very close" to returning. The Bulls are also missing Taj Gibson (left knee sprain) and still are hoping Derrick Rose can make it back from knee surgery before the season ends. Thibodeau said Richard Hamilton (sore back) is the one guy who is not close to coming back. ... For Orlando, Jameer Nelson missed his fourth straight game with a sprained right ankle. Arron Afflalo (hamstring) and Glen Davis (broken left foot) are out for the season. ... The Magic started the night a half-game better than Charlotte in a battle to avoid the league's worst record. ... Orlando forward Maurice Harkless left the game in the first half with a sore knee.
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