Daily Confidential

The Chicago Bulls are slowly establishing themselves as one of the better teams in the Eastern Conference despite struggling on the road and against the Western Conference.

The Bulls (16-11) hope both problems are part of the past, looking to carry their solid play of late into a visit with Kevin Garnett and the Minnesota Timberwolves on Tuesday.

Chicago has won 13 of 15 to recover from a 3-9 start. The Bulls have done it with an NBA-best 12-2 home mark and a 13-4 mark against Eastern foes.

To develop into a serious contender, Chicago likely needs to improve its records on the road (4-9) and against the West (3-7). The team is 1-5 when visiting teams from the opposite conference.

Chicago has won only once in its last eight trips to the Target Center.

The Bulls, though, are happy with their recent play. They cruised to their most lopsided victory of the season on Friday, 115-76 over Charlotte.

``We are playing together and we are playing with great confidence,'' Chicago forward Andres Nocioni said. ``We do need to play much better if we want to get the number one spot in the Central Division. We have that opportunity.''

Ben Gordon scored 18 of his 23 points in the second quarter for the Bulls. He's averaging 23.8 points over his last four games.

``Sometimes, the ball just bounces your way,'' Gordon said. ``I'm just working, trying to have more nights like that, continuing to try to get better.''

One of Chicago's home losses was to Garnett and Minnesota (11-13) on Dec. 9. The Timberwolves power forward scored 18 points to lead six players in double figures for Minnesota. The Bulls shot 39.5 percent - their third-lowest effort of the season.

That game was the Timberwolves' last victory before Garnett helped them end a four-game slide Saturday. He had 29 points and a season-high 19 rebounds as he took a season-high 26 shots and made 14.

``I just said I'm not going to let us be like this,'' Garnett said. ``I'm going be assertive more than ever. To hell with the offense.''

Garnett also was part of a big defensive effort that limited Indiana to 21 points in the second half. It was the third-fewest points an NBA team has scored in a second half since the shot clock was introduced in 1954.

``I thought our defense was better in the second half,'' Garnett said. ``We were more connected, came out with a lot more energy. At the end of the day, defense won this game for us.''

The Timberwolves will likely have shooting guard Trenton Hassell back in the lineup. Hassell, who started the first 23 games, sat out against Indiana after he woke up ill Saturday morning.

Minnesota is trying to sweep the season series from Chicago for the first time since 2003-04.

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