Bulls 96, Hawks 90

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ATLANTA (AP) – The Chicago Bulls are on track for the playoffs – healthy or not.

The Bulls, missing two injured starters, overcame an ugly first half to beat Atlanta 96-90 Wednesday night, completing a three-game sweep of the Hawks.

The Bulls moved into an eighth-place tie in the playoff standings with Philadelphia by beating New Jersey on Tuesday night. The 76ers played at New Jersey on Wednesday night.

Chicago owns the tiebreaker with Philadelphia due to a better conference record.

The Bulls were without guard Chris Duhon (lower back pain) for the second straight game and forward Luol Deng (concussion) for the third straight.

After trailing by 10 points entering the second period and shooting only 32 percent from the field in the first half, the Bulls recovered with a strong third quarter.

Ben Gordon led Chicago with 19 points. Kirk Hinrich had 17 points and seven assists, and Michael Sweetney added 15 points. Malik Allen, 0-for-7 from the field through three quarters, had nine points in the final period.

Josh Smith led the Hawks with 22 points and six blocked shots. Tyronn Lue had 15 points and Joe Johnson had 14 points and eight assists.

Atlanta’s Josh Childress was ejected with 2:33 left in the game for a flagrant foul against Chicago’s Andres Nocioni. Replays showed Childress was hit in the throat by Nocioni’s elbow and Childress responded by hitting Nocioni in the back of the head.

The Hawks were without forward Al Harrington due to a bruised left hand.

Both teams struggled with poor shooting in the first half. Smith rejected six shots in the first half, contributing to the Bulls’ 33 percent shooting. Chicago trailed most of the half but was tied 43-all at halftime.

Nocioni made only two of 12 shots in the first half and had several of his inside attempts rejected by Smith.

But Nocioni, who had 14 points, hit a 3-pointer early in the third period, and Hinrich had nine points in the period. After a 53-all tie, the Bulls outscored the Hawks 17-6 the rest of the period to take a 70-60 lead into the final period.

Notes: Chicago’s Tyson Chandler and Atlanta’s Zaza Pachulia were called for technical fouls after tempers flared in a battle for a loose ball early in the fourth quarter. … Rookie F Marvin Williams started for Harrington and had 10 points. … The Bulls, who swept last season’s four-game series with the Hawks, have won seven straight in the series.

AP-ES-04-12-06 2138EDT

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