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Bulls beat Sixers, leapfrog Philly into eighth in East

PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- Now it's Philadelphia's turn to chase
Chicago.

Andres Nocioni scored 21 points and grabbed 13 rebounds and Ben
Gordon had 21 points to lead the Bulls past the 76ers 99-92 on
Wednesday night and into the eighth and final playoff spot in the
Eastern Conference.

"We're the hunted and they're going to be coming after us,"
Bulls coach Scott Skiles said.

The Bulls (35-40) own a half-game lead on the slumping Sixers
(34-40) and the rematch is Saturday night in Chicago. The Sixers
host Boston on Friday while the Bulls don't play again until
Saturday. The Pacers (36-38) are the next team ahead of Chicago in
the East.

Luol Deng and Kirk Hinrich both scored 14 points and Tyson
Chandler grabbed 15 rebounds for the Bulls. Chicago has won four
straight, six of seven and two in two nights after winning Tuesday
night at home against Indiana.

"I think we continue to gain confidence within ourselves,"
Gordon said. "We're starting to mature a little more and
understand what it takes to be successful."

While Chicago's surge continues, the Sixers have gone into a
nosedive, losing 12 of their last 16 games, none bigger than a
33-point loss Tuesday at Cleveland. Two of their wins in that span
came against the lowly New York Knicks.

"We're out of the eighth spot, we're not out of the hunt,"
Sixers coach Maurice Cheeks said. "It's how you respond."

Allen Iverson scored 26 points and Chris Webber had 23 points
and 10 rebounds for the Sixers, who again got little offensive
production from anyone else before it was too late.

With Gordon playing a sensational all-around game, even with a
twisted ankle, and Nocioni having a sharp second half, the Bulls
controlled most of the way and led by 15 early in the fourth
quarter.

Perhaps unable to shake off the hangover from the blowout loss
to Cleveland, it took the Sixers nearly the whole game to really
get going. Iverson made three baskets to start a spurt, Samuel
Dalembert converted a three-point play and Webber pump-faked his
way inside for a bucket that cut the gap to 89-84 late in the
fourth.

Iverson sank two free throws with 1:02 left that made it a
three-point game. Nocioni, though, delivered again, taking a pass
on the fly from Hinrich and scoring an uncontested layup.

Webber missed a hook shot, Chandler grabbed the rebound and
Chris Duhon sank two free throws to seal the win.

What was left of an already sparse crowd -- Jimmy Rollins'
hitting streak, not the playoff chase, has captured the Philly
sports fan's attention -- either filed out or booed the Sixers off
the court.

"When you get down like that, you use up so much energy trying
to get back into the basketball game, you pretty much have to be
perfect the rest of the way," Iverson said. "Playing this game,
there's no way you can be perfect."

True, though the Bulls nearly seemed as if they were at the
start.

Both teams seemed to have some early carry-over from the
previous night, with the Bulls shooting a staggering 61 percent
(14-for-23) in the first quarter to take a 32-18 lead. Gordon again
carried Chicago coming off the bench, and his 17 points in the
first half helped stake the Bulls to a 48-43 lead at the break.

"I thought Chicago had more energy, that's for sure," Cheeks
said.

Gordon left with 51 seconds to go in the half after he twisted
an ankle while trying to steal the ball just past midcourt. He
needed assistance to the locker room, but returned late in the
third quarter and helped stifle a Sixers offense that was starting
to snap out of its funk. Four times the Sixers pulled within one,
only to be pushed back by the Bulls. After Kevin Ollie's jumper
made it 56-55, Nocioni hit a 3 to kick-start a 15-5 run.

"This was a game that earlier in the season we probably would
not have won," Duhon said. "We have really started to mature as a
team and we're starting to win games like this."

Game notes
Singer Wyclef Jean of The Fugees was at the game as part of
Haitian Night. Dalembert invited 100 kids from Philadelphia's
Haitian community to attend the game. Dalembert, the only active
Haitian player in the NBA, has given more than $72,500 to aid his
homeland. ... Sixers G Willie Green earned a nice ovation in his
first home game this season since returning from a serious knee
injury. Green made his debut against the Cavaliers and was hoping
to make an impact in the final games. "I'm still not where I want
to be," he said. "But I was fired up just to get back on the
court and play." ... Webber had has 35th double-double and ninth
straight 20-plus point game.