Chicago 100, Portland 89

CHICAGO, March 26 (AP) -- Luol Deng lost a friendly wager and now he owes a teammate dinner.

The way Deng played, the Chicago Bulls should pick up the tab.

Deng scored a career-high 38 points, and the Bulls won their third straight, beating the Portland Trail Blazers 100-89 on Monday night.

Near the end of the game, Deng said teammate Chris Duhon told him: "I bet you don't get 40.''

"But I wasn't really shooting for that,'' Deng said.

He was more concerned with getting the win and beating a pesky, albeit sloppy, Blazers team.

After beating Denver and Indiana on last-second shots, the Bulls found themselves in another close game until an 8-0 run midway through the fourth quarter put away Portland.

Deng, whose previous career-high was 32 points, hit 18-of-25 shots and played a big role during the deciding run. The Bulls were leading 80-76 when Deng caught a long pass from Duhon and hit both free throws after crashing to the court on a flagrant foul by Martell Webster.

Layups by Duhon and Tyrus Thomas and a jumper by Deng made it 88-76 with 4:31 left, sending Portland to its second straight loss.

"Every time I touch the ball on the post, he's the first guy I see,'' center Ben Wallace said. "That's always a great feeling - having guys moving toward the basket.''

With the win, the Bulls kept alive one of their goals: finishing with fewer than 10 losses at home. They're 27-9 at the United Center, with tough tests coming up Thursday against Detroit and Saturday against Cleveland.

Deng said he's not worried about catching the Pistons or Cavaliers, even though homecourt advantage in the first round could be the difference between a series win and an exit. The Bulls are 15-21 on the road.

"We have to keep worrying about us,'' Deng said.

And the Bulls have done just enough to win lately.

Gordon scored 13 of his 17 in the third, and Hinrich delivered 11 of his 21 points in the fourth.

Rookie LaMarcus Aldridge, who was drafted by Chicago and immediately traded to Portland, scored 20 points, and Zach Randolph added 17 in his first start since returning from a bereavement leave.

"I wasn't trying to play extra hard; I was just trying to play the way I've been playing,'' said Aldridge, who has scored at least 20 in three of the past five games. "It's not a big difference if I'm playing (power forward) or (center), other than who I have to guard. ... I just wish we would have won the game.''

After winning the first two games on this trip, the Blazers settled for a four-game split.

Randolph, who missed three games last week to attend a funeral, was 4-of-10 in his return to the starting rotation. He had 19 points in Sunday's one-point loss to Minnesota.

But the Blazers were missing another key player on Monday - Brandon Roy. The rookie left the team before the game to attend the birth of his first child in Seattle.

Blazers coach Nate McMillan said doctors in Seattle informed Roy - who leads all rookies in scoring (16.3 points) and assists (4.0 per game) - that the child would likely be born Monday night.

"When he got the information from the doctors, he decided to go back - which is the right thing to do,'' McMillan said.

Aldridge went to work against the team that drafted him with the second pick last year and dealt him for the rights to Thomas. He was 5-for-6 in the first quarter as the Blazers built a 31-25 lead, and Portland was ahead 45-41 at the half, but 24 turnovers ultimately did in the Blazers.

Deng scored the Bulls' first six points of the third quarter. Gordon scored 11 over the final 6:07 of the period as the Bulls took a 69-63 lead, and Hinrich scored nine points in the first 4+ minutes of the fourth.

But this was Deng's night. And, really, this has been his season.

He all but abandoned the 3-point shot this season, and the result is an increase in scoring from 14.3 points per game to 18.9. He's also averaging 7.0 rebounds.

"I don't even think he's reached half his potential,'' Wallace said. "He's just learning the game. I think once he realizes how good he can truly be, he's definitely going to be an All-Star in this league.''

Notes: Blazers F Ime Udoka played 12 minutes in the first quarter, before leaving with a concussion - his second this season. He had one rebound and did not attempt a shot. ... Randolph got called for a technical with 3:53 left in the first quarter, after he charged into Thomas and performed a hop, skip and jump. ... With Roy out, Webster started for the Blazers.

Copyright 2006 by STATS LLC and Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited