Bulls Stay Alive for Better Playoff Seeding
Chicago 116, Orlando 112 (OT)
ORLANDO, Fla., April 17 (Ticker) -- Kirk Hinrich and the Chicago Bulls still have something to play for.
Hinrich had 26 points and 10 assists as the Bulls rallied in regulation and controlled the game in overtime en route to a 116-112 victory over the Orlando Magic, who had won eight in a row and 12 straight at home.
Chicago entered tied with Indiana and Milwaukee with two games to play. The Pacers won easily at Toronto and the Bucks rolled over the Pistons, giving the Bulls extra motivation.
"The Magic are up-and-coming and we expected a big game out of them," Hinrich said. "Our goal is to be the highest seed we can. That's our motivation to move up. We've got a shot to finish .500 for the season and improve our seeding. We have a lot to play for."
Chicago coach Scott Skiles, honored before the game for his superlatives as an original member of the Magic, said the Bulls were just worried about winning.
"We're not worried about where we are," Skiles said. "We were 10 games under .500 in March and that would be quite a comeback if we win on Wednesday (and finish 41-41)."
The Magic led by as many as 16 points in the third quarter before the Bulls rallied. Hinrich's 22-foot jumper with 22 seconds left in regulation gave his team a 96-95 lead, but Hedo Turkoglu split a pair of free throws with 13 ticks remaining to force OT.
"When we had that (16-point) lead, they got uncontested layups off fastbreaks as a result of our turnovers," Orlando coach Brian Hill said. "Some of it was their defense and some of it was careless mistakes on our part. Sure, they (our players) were disappointed in missing the playoffs, but I don't think it was reflected in our play. The Bulls deserved to win."
Hinrich opened the extra session with a free throw and an assist on Luol Deng's layup and Chicago did not trail thereafter.
After Dwight Howard pulled Orlando within 103-100 with a basket with 2:05 left, Hinrich hit the first of his seven free throws down the stretch. For the overtime, the Bulls were 14-of-16 from the line, including 13-of-14 in the final 1:48.
"We kind of felt at halftime it was one of our poorer halves in quite a while," Skiles said. "But it was a great second half for us. We were much more aggressive defensively and had at least 25 points off turnovers. It was a quality win against a team playing as well as anyone in the league right now."
Ben Gordon, who had 18 points, made six straight foul shots in the final 30 seconds, as part of the Bulls' 35-of-45 effort from the line. Hinrich was 17-of-22 for Chicago, which will need a win over Toronto at home Wednesday and some help elsewhere to improve its seeding.
Turkoglu scored a career high-tying 32 points and Howard added 22, but the Magic (36-45) were unable to match a franchise record for consecutive wins.
"We really played great during our streak, and it's a good memory," Turkoglu said. "I'd like to make it up next year from the beginning. Even though we were eliminated from the playoffs, we didn't give up. We battled until the end and had a chance in the end, but I blew it. I should've made the free throw and we would've had nine in a row."
Orlando held a 52-41 lead at halftime and never trailed until Hinrich made two free throws with 8:11 left in regulation to put Chicago ahead, 81-80.