Latest defeat is double downer

The gaping holes of empty seats in even the lower sections of Philips Arena screamed a meaningless late March game with implications only a draft lottery official could love.

Coach Scott Skiles chose to see Saturday night another way.

"You ought to have a little pride as a pro and put in a fair day's work for, oh, about 500 days' pay," Skiles said. "You have to try to convince the guys to have a level of pride, regardless of what the record is."

Unfortunately for the Bulls, few players took Skiles' words or view to heart until the fourth quarter, rallying from a 14-point deficit before falling to a ragtag Atlanta team 97-88 before an announced crowd of 12,466.

The Bulls also possibly lost Tyson Chandler, who aggravated his bad back after crashing hard to the court late in the first half on a flagrant foul by Atlanta reserve Michael Bradley. Chandler will be re-evaluated Sunday.

The Bulls merely crashed to the mathematical reality they no longer can match last season's victory total of 30 games.

"I'm simply looking for any mix of guys who are going to play as hard as they can," Skiles said. "That's not too much to ask. But we're having a hard time finding it."

The Bulls, using a lineup of Kirk Hinrich, Jannero Pargo, Ronald Dupree, Linton Johnson and Marcus Fizer, cut their deficit to 82-79 with 3 minutes 11 seconds remaining on Hinrich's three-pointer.

But Stephen Jackson, who led Atlanta with 27 points and 10 rebounds, buried a three-pointer to start a 7-0 Hawks run.

The Bulls' bench, led by Fizer's 15 points and 14 from Pargo, outscored the starters 51-37. Eddy Curry and Jamal Crawford played three and four second-half minutes, respectively.

Chandler exited after wincing his way through two badly missed free throws with 6:48 to play in the second quarter.

Bradley slammed Chandler on a short shot attempt. Chandler then threw a punch at Bradley's shins that came up short before he was restrained by Dupree, who had a nice game with 12 points and seven rebounds.

"I didn't mean for it to be a punch because punching somebody's leg isn't going to do much except lose some money," Chandler said. "But it hurt when I went down."

Chandler represented nearly all the Bulls' fight until the fourth quarter.

Bits: Second-round pick Mario Austin has signed with the Jackson (Miss.) Rage of the newly formed World Basketball Association after negotiating a buyout from CSKA in Moscow. General manager John Paxson said he still assumes Austin will play for the Bulls in summer league. …

Former Bull Rick Brunson signed with Virtus Bologna in the Italian League, not Skipper Bologna as originally reported. … Jerome Williams expects to miss all three games on this trip because of a sprained left ankle. … Skiles said Paul Shirley could leave the hospital on Monday, but that his severely bruised kidney will prohibit him from playing basketball or absorbing contact for quite some time. …

Hinrich had only one assist, his lowest total in 18 games.