Bulls

Bulls Knock Off Bobcats, Clinch Playoff Spot

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Kyle Korver #26 of the Chicago Bulls shoots over Dante Cunningham #44 of the Charlotte Bobcats on March 9, 2011 at Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte, North Carolina. Copyright 2011 NBAE (Credit: Kent Smith/NBAE via Getty Images)

Kyle Korver #26 of the Chicago Bulls shoots over Dante Cunningham #44 of the Charlotte Bobcats on March 9, 2011 at Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte, North Carolina. Copyright 2011 NBAE (Credit: Kent Smith/NBAE via Getty Images)

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UPDATED 03/10/11 5:23 a.m.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (CBS) – The Bulls clinched a playoff spot Thursday night in beating the Charlotte Bobcats, but Carlos Boozer limped off the court after a flagrant foul minutes before the game ended.

Derrick Rose and Kyle Korver scored 20 points apiece and the Bulls pulled away in the fourth quarter to beat the Charlotte Bobcats 101-84 on Wednesday night.

The victory cuts the Boston Celtics’ lead for the Eastern Conference top seed to 1 1/2 games, the Chicago Tribune’s K.C. Johnson explained.

Carlos Boozer

Carlos Boozer (AP Photo/Nell Redmond)

But the victory was dimmed by Carlos Boozer‘s leg injury.

Korver had 12 points in the final period and Joakim Noah added 12 points and 13 rebounds for the Bulls, who won for the 11th time in 13 games and expanded their hold on second place in the Eastern Conference to 2 1/2 games over slumping Miami.

Boozer limped off late in the game after his left leg bent awkwardly on a flagrant foul by Kwame Brown and didn’t return.

Gerald Henderson had 20 points and eight assists for the Bobcats, who played again without Stephen Jackson and Tyrus Thomas in their sixth straight loss.

The Bobcats, the only sub-.500 team to beat the Bulls more than once this season, faded late before Brown’s foul sapped a joyous mood for the Bulls.

Boozer, who had 10 points and seven rebounds despite early foul trouble, was going in for a layup as the Bulls led by 17 points when Brown swiped and hit him across the chest. Boozer grabbed his leg as soon as he tumbled to the floor before limping slowly to the bench.

After being examined, it was determined he was unable to take the free throws and was helped to the locker room.

Charlotte knows all about injuries as its season begins to slip away.

The Bobcats played a third straight game without their top scorer Jackson (hamstring), and 24th without sixth man Thomas (knee surgery), despite coach Paul Silas declaring both ready to play a day earlier.

Backup center Joel Przybilla was then scratched before the game because of increased pain in his surgically repaired right knee. And with guard Matt Carroll (ankle ) sidelined, Charlotte had 10 healthy bodies.

Still, the Bulls took a while before they wore down Charlotte.

With former Bulls star and Bobcats owner Michael Jordan sitting courtside, Henderson did a decent impersonation of his boss on a twisting reverse layup along the baseline in a third quarter that saw Charlotte take a 68-67 lead on another hoop by Henderson.

Then Rose went to work with a nifty fadeaway and 3-pointer to give Chicago a 75-69 lead entering the fourth.

Korver had two big 3-pointers in Chicago’s dominant fourth quarter. The first made it 84-72 with 7:13 left and the second put Chicago ahead 92-75 with under 5 minutes to go.

The Bulls shot 51 percent and held an eighth straight opponent to under 90 points as they continue to show the potential to win the East.

But slowing down the Bobcats is much easier thanks to injuries and Jordan’s decision to trade former All-Star Gerald Wallace to Portland.

The blows continued at shootaround when Jackson acknowledged the training staff told him there’s a “possibility if I play tonight I might re-injure it.”

Thomas woke up with soreness Wednesday after his first full contract practice since his January surgery and indicated he’d “give it another day or two. I don’t want to play and have to sit back down.”

After late-game success in an early meeting, Silas started with the shooting guard Henderson guarding Rose. Henderson picked up a foul 18 seconds in.

But while Rose didn’t have a huge game on offense, he helped make Charlotte’s D.J. Augustin ineffective at the other end. Charlotte’s point guard was held to six points and three assists.

The Bobcats had strange lineups all night. One particularly odd unit of Henderson, Shaun Livingston, Eduardo Najera, D.J. White and Dante Cunningham helped Charlotte build a 40-34 second-quarter lead.

(TM and © Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS Radio and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2010 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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