Bulls hope to improve playoff standing, visit Minnesota

The Chicago Bulls kept their fleeting hopes of a Central Division title alive on Saturday, but hit the road to meet the Minnesota Timberwolves on Sunday night.

The Bulls knocked off the Central-leading Indiana Pacers, 87-84, in the Windy City Saturday night.

Without All-Star center Joakim Noah, who missed the contest with a foot injury, four Bulls scored in double figures and two others had nine points to lead a balanced attack.

"That is the way we have to play," Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau said. "We have to do it collectively. A lot of guys stepped up."

Luol Deng paced the Bulls with 20 points. Carlos Boozer registered a double- double with 18 points and 10 rebounds. Nazr Mohammed, who started in place of Noah, and Taj Gibson both had 11 points.

Nate Robinson and Daequan Cook both had nine off the bench, but both left the game early. Robinson was ejected for a flagrant foul late in the third quarter and Cook left with a thigh bruise after a deflection and dive for a lose ball.

The Bulls still trail the Pacers by five games in the Central, but they own the Eastern Conference's sixth seed. The are just a half-game behind the Atlanta Hawks for fifth and are 1 1/2 games ahead of the Boston Celtics, who are seventh.

The Timberwolves salvaged a game on their road trip Friday when they trounced the Phoenix Suns, 117-86. The victory halted a two-game losing streak on their short road trek.

"I thought from start to finish we just did a great job," said Wolves coach Rick Adelman. "Right from the very beginning our guys came ready to play. We did a nice job of moving the ball and attacking the basket and we were very active in the zone."

Adelman was certainly right about moving the ball. Seven Timberwolves players scored in double figures and every Minnesota player who saw time scored a point.

The team piled on the Suns early. Minnesota scored a season-high 67 points in the first half and was ahead by 28 at the break. Phoenix mounted a small comeback, but it was nowhere near enough.

Chase Budinger was one of those double-digit scorers for the Timberwolves. He had 11 in 16 minutes in just his second game back after major knee surgery.

There's still no timetable on a return for All-NBA forward Kevin Love, who has been sidelined with a broken hand.

The Bulls have won six straight against the Timberwolves and three in a row in Minnesota.