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Bulls over .500 for first time in over two years

ATLANTA (AP) -- The Chicago Bulls are finally escaping the shadow
of Michael Jordan.

Eddy Curry scored 19 points, five of his teammates also reached
double figures and the Bulls surged over .500 for the first time in
more than two years, routing the Atlanta Hawks 107-82 on Monday
night.

Chicago hasn't been above .500 this late in the season since
1998, when Jordan led the Bulls to their sixth NBA championship and
retired for the second time.

A painful rebuilding job -- and six straight losing seasons --
might finally be paying off with a lineup that includes two rookies
(Luol Deng and Chris Duhon), a second-year player (Kirk Hinrich)
and the 22-year-old Curry, who qualifies as a seasoned veteran on
this team.

"We were just having fun out there," Curry said. "We were
really clicking on offense."

The woeful Hawks actually led 24-23 at the end of the first
quarter, but things quickly turned ugly for the home team. The
Bulls outscored Atlanta 35-12 in the second period -- and the rout
was on.

Early on, Chicago appeared to be headed for another dismal
season in the post-Jordan era. The Bulls lost their first nine
games and 14 of 17, but they've won 17 of 22 to improve to 20-19.

The stretch already includes winning streaks of five and seven
games, and the Bulls have now won three in a row after blowing out
the Hawks.

Chicago hadn't been above .500 since winning its first two games
of the 2002-03 season. That was quickly followed by four straight
losses -- and another miserable season.

"We didn't think we were an 0-9 team when we were 0-9," coach
Scott Skiles said. "We thought we were better than that. And we
were."

At times, this one looked like the Harlem Globetrotters against
the Washington Generals.

The Bulls dunked at will, including Curry's spectacular,
one-handed slam on a lob from Deng early in the third quarter. When
the Hawks tried to cover up on the inside, Chicago burned them from
beyond the arc, finishing 9-of-16 on 3-pointers. Duhon had four of
them.

"We just started missing shots, and then we couldn't stop
anybody," Hawks guard Tyronn Lue said. "We just went around
hanging our heads. When you're not scoring, you've got to stop the
other team from scoring. We let our offense affect our defense."

For a while, it appeared the Hawks might challenge the worst
loss in Atlanta history. They were down 99-57 in the opening
minutes of the final period, on pace to eclipse a 47-point defeat
against Philadelphia in 1982.

But the Bulls went cold the rest of the way, allowing the Hawks
to avoid that brush with infamy. It wasn't even the worst loss of
the season, which remains a 112-82 blowout at Phoenix in the
opener.

That didn't make the outcome any easier to take.

"If we lose by 100 and we're giving it all we have, I can live
with that," Lue said. "But to play like we did tonight is
unacceptable."

Othella Harrington had 18 points for the Bulls, who got almost
everyone involved in the fun. Ben Gordon added 15, Duhon 14, Deng
13 and Hinrich 11.

The Bulls certainly know what it feels like to be on the other
end of a blowout.

"It's kind of crazy because not too long ago, we were that
other team," Curry said. "So we definitely know how they feel. It
never feels good."

The Hawks made just 26 of 80 shots (32.5 percent) and mostly
just stood around on defense. Al Harrington led the way with 18
points, but scoring honors didn't mean much in this one.

Game notes
Before the game, the Hawks activated 42-year-old C Kevin
Willis, who had missed seven games with a sore back. Rookie G Donta
Smith went on the injured list with tendinitis. ... The Bulls had
26 assists, led by Duhon with nine and Hinrich with eight. ... Lue
went home early from the morning shootaround because of flulike
symptoms. He returned to start in the evening, and wound up playing
28 minutes. ... Boris Diaw, the Hawks' first-round pick in 2003, is
clearly in coach Mike Woodson's doghouse. He had played in only
five of the previous 14 games, and didn't get into this one until
the game was totally out of hand.