Bulls move into tie with Sixers

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

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

New Jersey trails Miami by 31/2 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 9.9 seconds left and a halfcourt shot as time expired for the final score.

Chicago’s 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.

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

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 Nets early on, it looked like the Bulls would miss Deng’s perimeter defense. Carter scored 14 and hit four 3-pointers in the first quarter, two in the final minute, to give the Nets a 26-22 lead.

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 on 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.

AP-ES-04-11-06 2338EDT

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