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Bulls keep Nets from gaining any ground

4/12/2003

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

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 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 defeat 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 victory.

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 past 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 victory, 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-for-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-for-28 from the
line, including 9-for-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 a good fourth-quarter team. It's
frustrating to lose a game you should win.''

Game notes
Bulls forward Eddie Robinson was a scratch before the game with a
migraine. ... Bulls forward 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 have lost 14 of their past 15 in
Chicago.