Regular Season Series (Game 4 of 4)

Series starts 12/14

Game 1: Wednesday, December 14th
Game 2: Monday, January 9th
Game 3: Wednesday, January 25th
Game 4: Wednesday, April 19th

Raptors 106

(27-55, 12-29 away)

Bulls 127

(41-41, 21-20 home)

Coverage: WGN

7:30 PM ET, April 19, 2006

United Center, Chicago, IL

1 2 3 4 T
TOR 23 35 20 28106
CHI 34 34 35 24127

Top Performers

Toronto: C. Villanueva 29 Pts, 10 Reb, 3 Ast, 1 Stl

Chicago: B. Gordon 24 Pts, 6 Reb, 7 Ast, 1 Stl

Gordon scores 24 as Bulls sew up seventh seed

CHICAGO (AP) -- The Chicago Bulls pushed aside the Toronto Raptors to set up a first-round playoff series with the Miami Heat.

A team that appeared headed to the lottery not too long ago completed its charge into the playoffs, finishing the regular season with a 127-106 victory on Wednesday night to grab the No. 7 seed in the Eastern Conference.

Now, the attention turns toward Miami.

The Bulls will face the second-seeded Heat in a first-round series that opens Saturday after winning 12 of their final 14 games to finish 41-41.

Ben Gordon scored 24 points, hit 11 of 17 shots and added seven assists and six rebounds. Kirk Hinrich finished with 17 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds for Chicago, which finished on a season-high six-game win streak. Luol Deng scored 21 points and Andres Nocioni added 14 points and 11 rebounds.

The 127 points were a season high for the Bulls, who will make their second straight playoff appearance.

"It means a lot," Gordon said. "It builds a lot of confidence."

Morris Peterson and Charlie Villanueva each scored 29 for the Raptors (27-55), who ended the season on a 1-12 skid with All-Star forward Chris Bosh nursing a thumb injury. Villanueva had 10 rebounds.

Chicago began the night tied with Indiana, a game behind fifth-place Washington and a half-game ahead of idle Milwaukee. Washington beat Detroit by 16 and Indiana earned the sixth seed with a six-point victory over Orlando, leaving the Bulls with a first-round matchup against the Heat. A loss would have dropped Chicago to the eighth spot.

With help from Detroit and Orlando, the Bulls could have finished fifth or sixth.

To that, Gordon said, "I don't really care, to tell you the truth."

"It would have been nice, but we took care of what we needed to take care of," forward Malik Allen said.

A run late in the second quarter notwithstanding, Toronto never was in this game.

Hinrich and Gordon hit 3-pointers in the opening minute, the Bulls grabbed a 10-2 lead, and the Raptors never recovered. The Bulls led by 11 after the first quarter and started the second with an 11-1 run that made it 45-24. Hinrich's layup and Eric Piatkowski's free throw boosted the Bulls' lead to 61-35 with 4:45 left before Toronto made its move.

Villanueva's banked 3-pointer at the end of the half pulled the Raptors within 68-58.

"This was a big test for us," Bulls guard Chris Duhon said. "Everyone thinks you're going to win, and you can easily get caught up into that and play a loose game. It was important for us to come out focused."

Last season, the Bulls started 0-9 but went 15-4 over the final month, finished with 47 wins and earned their first playoff appearance since the Michael Jordan-Scottie Pippen era before losing to Washington in the first round.

They re-signed coach Scott Skiles and Tyson Chandler to multiyear contracts in the offseason, but negotiations with free agent Eddy Curry unraveled and ended in a trade to New York on the eve of training camp.

The Bulls insisted Curry, their leading scorer last season, take a DNA test to rule out a potentially fatal heart condition. He refused. So the Bulls sent him and veteran forward Antonio Davis to New York for Michael Sweetney, Tim Thomas, Jermaine Jackson and several draft picks, including a first-rounder in 2006.

It was a bad start for a Bulls team that appeared to be going nowhere until its recent surge.

There was an eight-game losing streak in late December and early January. A four-game skid that culminated in a 10-point loss at Indiana on March 22 dropped the Bulls to 29-39, but they reversed course. They avoided the draft lottery.

"It's a pretty levelheaded group, especially for young players" Skiles said. "But this is pretty extreme -- being 10 games (under .500). ... Any time you have a 12-2 streak you're doing something right."

Toronto simply struggled all season.

The Raptors started 1-15 and were 17 games under .500 before Bosh injured his thumb in an overtime loss at Milwaukee on March 26.

"I didn't want the season to be over so soon," said Villanueva, who averaged 13 points as a rookie. "I had fun. I know what to expect for next year."

Game notes

Chandler and wife Kimberly are expecting their first child, a daughter, any day. But he does not expect to miss a game. "I want to be there at such a special moment, but if it's in the middle of the game, I'll finish the game out and get there as quickly as possible," Chandler said. ... The Bulls will likely leave F Darius Songaila (broken right foot) off the postseason roster, Skiles said. ... The Bulls have won 13 straight over Toronto. ... Chicago's previous season high was 118 points against Boston on Dec. 17. ... The Bulls led the NBA in lowest defensive field-goal percentage (.426) for the second straight year.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


Team Stat Comparison

Points 106 127
FGM-FGA 33-94 (.351) 49-90 (.544)
3PM-3PA 9-21 (.429) 7-20 (.350)
FTM-FTA 31-35 (.886) 22-29 (.759)
Rebounds (Offensive-Total) 13-40 14-57
Assists 15 31
Turnovers 9 16
Steals 8 3
Blocks 2 2
Fast Break Points 16 20
Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 26 (0/0) 28 (0/0)
Largest Lead 0 27

Top Performers

Charlie Villanueva Villanueva
Points: 29
Reb: 10
Ast: 3
Stl: 1
Blk: 0
Ben Gordon Gordon
Points: 24
Reb: 6
Ast: 7
Stl: 1
Blk: 0