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The Bulls were battered but not broken.

They departed Philips Arena on Wednesday night with a hard-fought 96-90 victory over the Hawks.

They remain tied with the Philadelphia 76ers for the eighth and final Eastern Conference playoff berth with four games left in the regular season. The 76ers defeated the Nets 116-96 Wednesday and also have four games remaining. If a tiebreaker is used to determine the eighth seed, the Bulls will prevail based on a better conference record.

The two teams trail Milwaukee and Indiana by one game for the sixth seed.

The Bulls' victory, with its moments of punishing physical play, came with a price as Ben Gordon limped slightly on a bad left ankle and Kirk Hinrich underwent a procedural X-ray for a dislocated right pinky finger.

"It's not that big of a deal," Hinrich said with his usual nonchalance. "I just popped it back, and it swelled up a little bit."

Gordon said he hurt his ankle in the Bulls' loss to the 76ers on Saturday and aggravated it Tuesday in the victory over the Nets. He played through the pain against the Hawks, scoring 19 points.

Both Gordon and Hinrich are expected to play Friday night against Washington at the United Center. But Chris Duhon, who has missed two games with a back injury, and Luol Deng, who has sat out three straight with a concussion, still might be sidelined.


Although he was unable to play because of the concussion he suffered Saturday, Luol Deng rode a stationary bike, did some light running and shot baskets before the Bulls beat the Hawks on Wednesday night.

"I'm just a little bit out of it, a little light-headed," he said after the Bulls' 96-90 victory. "I guess that's supposed to happen."

Chris Duhon also was inactive because of continued back pain and missed his second straight game.

Deng hopes to return for Friday's game against the Wizards at the United Center.

Just a week ago, Deng said he was excited about being a contributor in the Bulls' bid for the playoffs, especially because he missed the playoffs last season with a wrist injury. Since then, he has missed three games in a row, including Tuesday's victory over the Nets.

"I still am [excited], no matter what," he said.

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Darius Miles Davis said:
It's unbelievable that we have to play Washington at this time of year again, without Deng due to health problems. Ugh.

We better get the 30 point Ben Gordon effort as opposed to the 0 point effort.
Tell me about it, I'm glad Nocioni is playing like he is right now.

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Here's a few other stories:

Scrappy Bulls not caught bird-watching

ATLANTA — The NFL team in this town, the Falcons, are nicknamed “The Dirty Birds.”

While falcons and hawks are birds of prey, Atlanta’s basketball squad has resembled a harmless parakeet swinging in its cage in recent years.

That wasn’t the case Wednesday night. The Hawks were both scrappy and feisty, but the short-handed Bulls helped their playoff cause by pulling out a 96-90 victory at Philips Arena.

“They tried to win tonight,” Bulls center Tyson Chandler said. “That’s why it got so scrappy. Both teams were diving for loose balls. Both teams wanted it, and you’re going to have altercations.”

Atlanta forward Josh Childress was ejected with 2:33 remaining for throwing an elbow that struck Andres Nocioni on the back of the head. Nocioni was boxing out for a rebound, and his arm caught Childress in the chin just before the offense occurred.

Early in the fourth quarter, there was a minor tussle when Hawks center Zaza Pachulia went to the floor for a loose ball and was tied up by Bulls guard Jannero Pargo. Pachulia began flailing his arms and pushing Pargo’s head.

“I don’t know what happened,” Pargo said. “I guess he just got frustrated.”

Chandler leaned in to give Pachulia a shove and had his fist clenched, but the players were separated with nothing more than foul language exchanged. Both Chandler and Pachulia received technicals.
And at the end of another story focusing on Al Harrington:

Pike comes back: Eric Piatkowski returned to the floor Wednesday, four days after suffering a concussion in a shootaround collision with teammate Luol Deng. Piatkowski played seven minutes against the Hawks and did not score.

Deng shot around and did some running before the game in Atlanta but did not suit up. He expects to be ready Friday when the Bulls host Washington.

“I’ve got less headaches, but I still feel a little light-headed,” Deng said. “I’m just a little bit out of it. Hopefully by tomorrow I’ll feel better and by Friday I’ll play.”

John Jackson in the Sun-Times:

Sleepy Bulls stay awake, afloat

It was a victory, and that's what the Bulls desperately need down the stretch as they battle for one of the final three playoff spots in the Eastern Conference.

"It wasn't a pretty game,'' Bulls coach Scott Skiles said, "but we played really hard in the second half, and we really battled for it.''

With the win, the Bulls (37-41) completed a sweep of back-to-back games -- they won 104-101 over the New Jersey Nets on Tuesday at the United Center -- and hold onto eighth place and the final East playoff spot.

"It's a win, and we'll take it,'' said guard Kirk Hinrich, who had 17 points and seven assists despite dislocating his right pinky during the game. "We're taking care of our part, and we just have to keep winning.''
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