Bulls Push for No. 2 Seed

The Chicago Bulls have proven to be one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference this season, but they've hardly resembled a playoff-bound team against the New Jersey Nets.

The Bulls continue their push for the No. 2 seed in the East and try to avoid losing their third straight game against the Nets when the teams meet Friday at the United Center.

Chicago (45-31) defeated first-place Detroit 106-88 at The Palace of Auburn Hills on Wednesday to win three of four games against the top team in the East.

Oddsmakers have made Chicago -6.5 point spread favorites (NBA Odds) for todays game, the over/under has been set at 190 total points (View NBA Sports Books). Our public betting information

shows that 52% of bets for this game have been placed on New Jersey +6.5 (View NBA Bet Percentages).

With the victory, the Bulls pulled within three games of the Pistons and are also battling with Cleveland for second place in the East.

"It is significant because we are trying to move up," coach Scott Skiles said. "We are trying to keep pace with the teams in front of us and so it makes it a big win."

Chicago shot 53.8 percent and went 7-for-11 from 3-point range against Detroit to win for the sixth time in seven games.

The Bulls hope their recent success will carry over to Friday as they host a New Jersey team that has frustrated them this season. They have had 18-point leads in their two games against the Nets (35-39), but have lost both.

Chicago jumped out to an 18-0 lead over the Nets at Continental Airlines Arena on Jan. 5 before losing 91-86. Six days later at the United Center, the Bulls had a 55-37 lead over New Jersey with just under 11 minutes left in the third quarter, but lost 86-83.

Jason Kidd played a vital role in those comebacks for the Nets. He finished with 40 points, 24 rebounds and 18 assists in those two games, including a triple-double in the Jan. 11 victory.

Bulls forward Andres Nocioni has 47 points and 14 rebounds against New Jersey this season, but has missed the last two months with right foot plantar fasciitis. Chicago, though, is hopeful to have him back for this game along with center Ben Wallace, who missed Wednesday's contest with sinus inflammation.

Kirk Hinrich scored 29 points on 10-of-17 shooting against the Pistons, and is averaging 24.3 points - 7.6 better than his season average - in his last three games. Hinrich has struggled with his shooting touch against the Nets this season, however, scoring 32 points on just 9-of-29 (31.0 percent) shooting in the two games.

New Jersey won for the fourth time in five games Wednesday, 101-86 over Atlanta. The Nets hold a 1 1/2-game lead on Orlando for the No. 7 seed in the East with eight games to play.

"We realize the playoffs are close and we are trying to pick it up," said Bostjan Nachbar, who scored 26 points and shot 7-of-10 from 3-point range. "I also think the team looks much more mature now. As the season comes to an end, we don't have as many ups and downs. In the second halves, we are controlling the games."

Kidd had nine points and 10 assists against the Hawks, while Vince Carter had 24 points and eight assists.

The Nets have lost seven of their last 10 games on the road, while the Bulls have won six of their last eight at the United Center and have one of the best home records in the East at 28-10.

These teams conclude their regular seasons against each other on April 18 in New Jersey.

By: Marc Young - theSpread.com - Email Us

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