Sports

Bulls hand Nets crucial loss

Brooklyn, NY (SportsNetwork.com) - Pau Gasol posted 22 points and 11 rebounds and the Chicago Bulls used a big second half to dispose of the playoff-hopeful Brooklyn Nets 113-86 on Monday.

Nikola Mirotic had a game-high 26 points in 24 minutes off the bench for the Bulls, who have secured homecourt advantage in the first round of the postseason. With the win, they moved one half-game ahead of idle Toronto for the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference.

"Overall, we played well on both sides of the ball," said Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau. "We had great ball movement."

The Bulls finish the regular season at home against Atlanta on Wednesday, while Toronto still has two games left on its schedule.

Brooklyn meanwhile lost an opportunity to pick up a game in the increasingly competitive race for the final playoff spot in the East. The loss locked up a berth for the idle Celtics and knocked Brooklyn a half-game behind Indiana for the eighth seed.

The Nets will take on Orlando on Wednesday in a must-win game and need help from the Pacers, who host Washington on Tuesday and visit Memphis on Wednesday.

After taking a 57-50 lead into the locker rooms, Chicago scored on eight of its first nine touches out of halftime. Gasol capped the five-plus minute stretch with a mid-range jumper, extending the lead to 73-59.

Mirotic caught fire late in the period, hitting three consecutive 3s to make it a 22-point game.

It was 87-65 after three, and the lead grew to 29 as Chicago cruised to a third straight win.

Bojan Bogdanovic and Jarrett Jack had 17 and 15 points, respectively, for Brooklyn. Deron Williams capped an abysmal season against the Bulls with a 3- for-13 shooting performance. Williams went 12-for-48 (25 percent) in four games with Chicago.

"There's really no explanation and no excuse," said Williams. "You really can't win against a team like this when you're not sharing the ball."

Game Notes

Bulls center Joakim Noah missed the game with a hamstring injury ... The Bulls have won consecutive road games for the first time since Feb. 7-8 ... Chicago won the season series, 3-1.