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Exclamation points from Chandler
Making the playoffs could be a tall order for the Bulls this season and 7-foot-1-inch Tyson Chandler appears to be their ticket to the postseason.
The Bulls matched their longest winning streak of the season--four--with a 111-99 victory over the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday night in front of 21,175 at the United Center.
The Hawks, winners of only three road games this season, fell behind by as many as 24 points in the second half but pulled to within 97-92 on Joe Johnson's basket with 5 minutes 17 seconds left in the fourth quarter.
Ben Gordon scored the Bulls' final 10 points.
"We had our rough spot," said Bulls coach Scott Skiles, who noted his team played "40-plus minutes of pretty solid defense."
The Bulls finished with six players in double figures led by Gordon with 23 and Kirk Hinrich's 22. Luol Deng added 18, Andres Nocioni 11, Darius Songaila 10 and Chandler 10.
Chandler's sixth double-double of the season included 14 rebounds.
"Of course I know I'm a big part of the team," Chandler said. "But when I step up, it seems like everybody around me steps up."
Johnson had a career-high 40 points to lead Atlanta, including 32 in the second half.
Coinciding with the Bulls' mini-surge has been the inspired play by Chandler, who averaged 12.7 points and 14 rebounds in the team's previous three victories. He nearly registered a double-double in the first half alone Saturday night, scoring 10 points and grabbing nine rebounds.
"Anytime you have a 7-foot guy who can change ends and protect the basket and rebound the basket--the things Tyson can do--that would help any team," said Skiles, whose 20-23 team will be tested with a seven-game trip against Western Conference opponents beginning Tuesday night in Dallas.
"[Chandler] doesn't seem to be pressing as much. He is just sort of letting it happen and playing his game. And he is staying out of foul trouble. That's the biggest thing. He is able to stay on the floor."
Chandler's improved production has not gone unnoticed by his teammates.
"Tyson knows exactly what his role is," said Gordon, who also grabbed a career-high eight rebounds. "He knows how important it is for him to play well for himself and for the team. He has been working hard all season. Even when he hasn't had good performances, he has been trying to get it going."
Guard Chris Duhon added: "When he is active and blocking shots and rebounding and running the court, it makes our whole team flow."
Chandler tormented the Hawks with an assortment of high-percentage dunks and tip-ins to go with his 14 rebounds, two blocked shots, two steals and three assists.
"I'm just coming out and being aggressive," Chandler said. "I'm not being on the receiving end of it. Once you have confidence, you are ready to do everything out there.
"Everybody on the floor right now has confidence in the kind of role they have."
Chandler noted his recent insertion in the starting lineup against the Indiana Pacers was a motivator.
"It was great for me for the coaches to come up to me with the confidence and say, `Look, we're going to start you and play you as many minutes as possible,'" he said. "I went out there and pretty much gave it my all."
The Bulls also won four straight Nov. 20-29. . . . Gordon was named the Bulls' player of the month. . . . Several members of the White Sox stood at midcourt with the World Series trophy and received a thunderous ovation.The group included Paul Konerko, Jon Garland, Cliff Politte, Neal Cotts, Joe Crede and coach Harold Baines.