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Bulls narrow gap with Pistons

KIRK Hinrich scored 24 points to help the Chicago Bulls beat the Detroit Pistons 99-91 and move to within a game of the visitors in the Eastern Conference on Tuesday.

Hinrich, who started for injured guard Derrick Rose, also had eight assists as the eighth-placed Bulls improved to 34-38. The Pistons (34-36) hold the seventh spot.

Only the top eight teams make the post-season.

"It shows the professionalism of Kirk playing the way he did," Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro told reporters. "He gave us a huge, huge lift."

Hinrich, a back-up this season, answered the starting call when a severely bruised right wrist forced Rose to miss his first game of the season.

"It has been challenging at times," Hinrich said of his reserve roll. "I've been playing well but in somewhat limited minutes.

"I'm just trying to do whatever I can to help us get in the playoffs because that's everybody's goal."

All five of the Bulls' starters scored in double figures.

Ben Gordon added 19 points, Tyrus Thomas had 18 points and 12 rebounds, John Salmons scored 16 points and Joakim Noah contributed 15 points and 10 rebounds.

Tayshaun Prince and reserve Will Bynum each had 20 for Detroit, who played without injured standouts Allen Iverson, Rasheed Wallace and Richard Hamilton.

Chicago scored 10 consecutive points in the third period to take control.

"We got in trouble when we got to the point where we couldn't score," Pistons coach Michael Curry said.

"The game got away from us at that time."

The short-handed Pistons recovered from an early 10-point deficit to lead late in the second quarter but ran out of steam in the third after Prince hit a three-pointer to give Detroit a 51-50 lead.

Gordon's two free throws made it 60-51 and the Bulls dominated the remainder of the game.

In Salt Lake City, Ronnie Brewer scored 12 of his 17 points in the second half as Utah ended Houston's four-game winning streak with a 99-86 victory. The Jazz pulled within one-half game of Denver for the Northwest Division lead and knocked the Rockets back to second in the Southwest.

Deron Williams had 19 points and 12 assists for the Jazz, who blocked a season-high 12 shots to help compensate for a poor night on the boards, getting outrebounded 52-42.

Aaron Brooks scored 20 points and Yao Ming added 14 points and 13 rebounds for the Rockets.

In Oklahoma City, Kobe Bryant scored 19 points before sitting out the fourth quarter as the Los Angeles Lakers cruised to a 107-89 win over Thunder. The Lakers led from start to finish for the ninth time this season and closed within one game of idle Cleveland for the best record in the NBA.


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