(Sports Network) - The chances of making the Central Division race interesting
are slim for the playoff-bound Chicago Bulls, but they can still improve their
status in the East.
The Bulls hope to do that Friday night in a matchup with the Orlando Magic at
the United Center.
Chicago is 6 1/2 games behind the Indiana Pacers for the Central lead with
eight to play and sits even with Atlanta for the fifth spot in the conference
standings. The Bulls and Hawks are 1 1/2 games behind Brooklyn.
In a 92-90 victory over the Nets on Thursday, Nate Robinson scored the go-
ahead basket with 22.7 seconds remaining and finished with 12 points off the
bench. Carlos Boozer had 29 points and 18 rebounds for the Bulls, who got 16
points and 10 boards from Jimmy Butler. Luol Deng scored 18 in the win.
"We got the plays we needed to get to win the game," Boozer said.
The Bulls are still without guards Marco Belinelli (abdomen) and Derrick Rose
(knee) and center Joakim Noah (foot). It is unknown when any of the
contributors will return on a healthy slate. Belinelli and Noah are on a day-
to-day basis, while Rose, a former MVP, is out indefinitely.
Chicago has won three in a row at home and is 21-16 at the United Center.
Meanwhile, the struggling Magic are playing out the string and will resume a
five-game road trip Friday night.
Orlando is winless (0-3) so far on the trip and dropped a 98-84 decision to
the San Antonio Spurs the last time out on Wednesday. Mo Harkless had 18
points and nine rebounds for the Magic, who have lost 11 of 12 games and are
riding a nine-game road losing streak.
"They have a system that works for them," Orlando guard Beno Udrih said of the
Spurs. "They have been using it forever and the organization's scouts are
really good for the system that they have. In the end we just lost a little
bit of focus in the fourth quarter, so that's how we lost the game."
The Magic were missing Arron Afflalo (strained right hamstring), Jameer Nelson
(sprained right ankle) and Hedo Turkoglu (personal reasons). Nelson is
doubtful against the Bulls and Turkoglu is expected to miss Friday's game.
Afflalo could miss the remainder of the 2012-13 campaign.
Orlando is 8-30 on the road and will also visit Cleveland on the trip. The
Magic have lost the first two meetings with the Bulls this season and will
host them on April 15.
Chicago has won three in a row, seven of eight and nine of the past 14
matchups with Orlando.
The Sports Network