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Chicago earns first berth since Jordan era

CHICAGO (AP) -- These Bulls hardly resemble Michael Jordan's
teams of the 1990s, but they do share one trait with those
championship squads -- they're in the postseason.

The Bulls, who started this season 0-9, secured their first
playoff berth since the Jordan era with a 110-97 win Saturday over
the Toronto Raptors, who were eliminated from playoff contention.

"The guys are happy," said Bulls coach Scott Skiles. "They
should be, to come from where we've come from to be in. We should
be happy, and I've enjoyed it."

But there was little outward celebration from a team headed to
the playoffs for the first time since the 1997-98 season, when
Jordan led the Bulls to their sixth NBA title. The Bulls say
they're not content simply to make the postseason, but want to
advance in the playoffs.

"It's good," said Jerry Reinsdorf, the Bulls owner who
presided over the team's dynasty and subsequent rebuilding, as he
walked by the locker room after the game. "It's been a while."

The Bulls have won three straight and 12 of their last 13, and
are in fourth place in the Eastern Conference standings, two games
ahead of idle Indiana.

Kirk Hinrich scored 25 points and added eight assists, and four
other Bulls scored in double figures. Tyson Chandler had a
season-high 18 points and finished with 21 rebounds in a reserve
role. Antonio Davis had 13 points and 13 rebounds, Andres Nocioni
scored 16 and Othella Harrington added 12.

"Kirk was great tonight," Skiles said. "He controlled the
game, he made big shots, he hustled. We had a lot of guys play very
well tonight."

Chandler had 11 offensive rebounds as the team beat the Raptors
on the boards, 53-33, including a 21-6 advantage on offense
rebounds.

"They're just more athletic," Raptors coach Sam Mitchell said.
"We had no answer for Tyson Chandler. They just killed us on the
boards."

The Bulls never trailed, and were tied only once at 2-2, en
route to matching a season high with 62 points in the first half.
Chicago led by as many as 21 points in the third quarter before the
Raptors used a 15-2 run to close within 85-77 going into the fourth
quarter.

The teams traded baskets and Hinrich hit a 3-pointer to give the
Bulls a 97-85 lead. The Raptors never got within single digits the
rest of the way.

"To be in this situation and know we're going to be in the
playoffs, it's really big for me," said Chandler, who along with
Eddy Curry is the longest-tenured Bull at four years.

Without two injured starters, Curry and Luol Deng, the Bulls got
strong contributions from Harrington and Nocioni in their stead.
Nocioni scored eight points in the first quarter and Harrington
scored 10 in the first half and had the first basket of the fourth
quarter.

"That's kind of been the story for us all year," Hinrich said.
"We've had guys in and out of the lineup and other guys have
stepped up."

Jalen Rose, who used to play for the Bulls, led the Raptors with
19 points. Morris Peterson had 18 and Chris Bosh finished with 17
points and nine rebounds.

Game notes
Curry missed his sixth straight game with an irregular
heartbeat. He made his first appearance at the United Center,
sitting in a Bulls luxury box during the game. It is not known when
Curry will return. He is expected to have additional tests at a
Minnesota hospital on Tuesday. "Until we have all of the
information on Tuesday, there's nothing we can say," Bulls general
manager John Paxson said. ... Deng scheduled his wrist surgery for
April 12 in New York ... The Raptors placed Donyell Marshall on the
injured list with a strained right Achilles' tendon and signed Omar
Cook to a 10-day contract ... Illinois guard Deron Williams was in
attendance.