Regular Season Series (Game 3 of 3)

Series starts 11/5

Game 1: Saturday, November 5th
Game 2: Tuesday, March 7th
Game 3: Tuesday, April 11th

Nets 101

(47-30, 19-20 away)

Bulls 104

(36-41, 19-20 home)

Coverage: CSNC

7:30 PM ET, April 11, 2006

United Center, Chicago, IL

1 2 3 4 T
NJ 26 19 23 33101
CHI 22 26 22 34104

Top Performers

NJ: V. Carter 43 Pts, 6 Reb, 3 Ast, 1 Stl

Chi: A. Nocioni 20 Pts, 17 Reb, 4 Ast, 2 Stl, 1 Blk

Gordon scores 21 points in fourth quarter to lead Bulls

CHICAGO (AP) -- A year ago, the Chicago Bulls rolled into the playoffs. Now, they're fighting and clawing to get there.

And on Tuesday night, they showed some resolve.

Ben Gordon scored 21 of his 36 points in the fourth quarter, leading the short-handed Bulls over the New Jersey Nets 104-101 and into a tie with Philadelphia for the Eastern Conference's eighth and final playoff spot.

"This is right up there with one of our best team efforts," said Gordon, who hit 19 of 21 free throws.

The Bulls and 76ers trail Milwaukee and Indiana by a game.

New Jersey trails Miami by 3½ games for the second seed in the Eastern Conference. The Nets have five games left and the Heat four.

Gordon, who shot 1-for-6 with 10 points in the first half, banked in a 3-pointer from the wing that increased the Bulls' lead to 90-84. After a layup by Vince Carter, Gordon converted a three-point play that made it 93-86 with 1:22 remaining.

Carter hit a 3-pointer with 8.8 seconds left, and after two free throws by Gordon and one by Malik Allen, a halfcourt shot as time expired for the final score.

"They wanted it a little bit more than us," Carter said. "They're looking to secure a spot. But we're still playing for something as well. Our season's not over yet."

Gordon was 12-of-13 from the line in the fourth quarter.

Andres Nocioni scored 20 points and grabbed a career-high 17 rebounds -- his seventh straight double-double -- as the Bulls (36-41) won for the seventh time in nine games. Kirk Hinrich scored 22 after shooting 2-for-13 in Saturday's 14-point loss to Philadelphia.

Carter scored 43 points -- his fifth game with 40 or more this season -- for a Nets team (47-30) that had won 15 of 16 and is trying to reach the 50-win mark for the second time in its NBA history. The 2001-02 team won 52.

Richard Jefferson scored 22 points and Nenad Krstic added 17, but Jason Kidd had another rough shooting performance against the Bulls. The point guard was 1-of-9 and finished with four points and five assists. In three games against Chicago, Kidd shot a combined 5-for-28.

Krstic's jumper and Jacque Vaughn's free throw with 7:19 left gave the Nets their last lead, 76-74. Hinrich's free throws tied it, and Allen's jumper put the Bulls ahead 78-76.

"It just shows that when everybody steps up, a lot of things can be accomplished," Hinrich said.

The effort that the Bulls sorely lacked on Saturday was there this time -- even without forward Luol Deng and guard Chris Duhon.

Duhon, averaging 8.9 points and 5.1 assists, has been bothered by lower back pain for more than a month.

Deng -- third on the team with 13.9 points per game and second in rebounding at 6.5 -- suffered a concussion in a collision with teammate Eric Piatkowski during the morning shootaround before Saturday night's game against Philadelphia. Deng did not play that night, nor did Piatkowski, who had a concussion and laceration. Piatkowski also sat out Tuesday's game.

Deng said an MRI taken Monday revealed no further damage.

With Carter toying with the Bulls, the Bulls missed Deng's perimeter defense. But they compensated.

"Sometimes when you're short-handed, guys step up," coach Scott Skiles said.

Allen had 11 points and eight rebounds. Hinrich rebounded from the Sixers game. Nocioni delivered another strong performance.

"Offensively, his shooting has really opened up a lot for his game," Allen said. "He does it all. He's tough. He can slash to the basket. Now, he's scoring off the dribble a little bit."

And Gordon delivered at the end.

"We're not in it until these last five games are over with," he said. "We'll see where we end up."

Game notes

Jefferson was fined $5,000 by the NBA on Tuesday for kicking a ball into the stands. The incident occurred Sunday during the second quarter of the Nets' 95-83 victory in Milwaukee. ... The Bulls signed guard Randy Livingston for the remainder of the season. Livingston joined the team on March 22 and signed a second 10-day contract April 1. ... Nocioni's previous career high was 14 rebounds against New Jersey on Nov. 5, 2004. His season high was 13 last Wednesday at Philadelphia.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


Team Stat Comparison

Points 101 104
FGM-FGA 34-85 (.400) 32-77 (.416)
3PM-3PA 10-27 (.370) 7-16 (.438)
FTM-FTA 23-32 (.719) 33-44 (.750)
Rebounds (Offensive-Total) 10-44 8-51
Assists 17 18
Turnovers 14 11
Steals 5 4
Blocks 4 6
Fast Break Points 9 10
Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 33 (0/0) 31 (1/0)
Largest Lead 5 8

Top Performers

New Jersey
Vince Carter Carter
Points: 43
Reb: 6
Ast: 3
Stl: 1
Blk: 0
Andres Nocioni Nocioni
Points: 20
Reb: 17
Ast: 4
Stl: 2
Blk: 1