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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Bulls First to Sew Up Playoff Slot


CHICAGO -- Six weeks to play in the regular season and the relentless Chicago Bulls have already locked up a spot in the American National Basketball Association playoffs. Not that there was ever any doubt this team would be there.

Now at 52-6, they'll shoot for an NBA-best 70 victories, try to stay unbeaten at home and find a way to keep star players like Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman healthy.

And coach Phil Jackson, in charge of the various egos and talent levels, will make sure complacency doesn't set it, even against overmatched opponents.

After a 23-point win Friday night over Golden State, Jackson still wasn't pleased and told the players so at a shootaround before Saturday's game against Boston.

"Phil was a little upset and kind of gave us a little tongue lashing. We responded with a better effort,'' guard Steve Kerr said after the Celtic game.

That effort buried the shorthanded Celtics 110-75 Saturday night as the Bulls allowed the fewest points they have all season, produced their biggest margin of victory and mathematically clinched a playoff spot.

"We have to move this up a level. You're not going to be facing the Celtics or some of the teams having tough seasons," Jordan said. "We are going to be facing some of the top teams in this league. Our defensive pressure has to continue to improve. We're a target, we got a bulls-eye on our back. But that is good. It keeps us focused, it keeps us awake. We can't really fall asleep."

Both the Bulls and Orlando Magic have been invincible on their home courts. Chicago is 28-0 at the United Center, has won 35 straight regular-season games there since last season and plays eight of its next 12 at home.

Perhaps the Bulls toughest remaining game comes April 7 at Orlando, where the Magic are currently 30-0. There are also road stops in New York, Miami, Charlotte and Cleveland.

"We feel comfortable at home and so are they," Jordan said of the Magic. "We have to defend what is ours, our home court. It's one of those challenges in front of us. It shows dominance, but we've also shown we can be dominant on the road, too."

Pacers 103, Hornets 100. In Indianapolis, Reggie Miller scored 11 of his 31 points as Indiana rallied in the final period for its sixth consecutive victory and the 800th for coach Larry Brown.

"I'd felt miserable if we hadn't got this one, but I feel great," said Brown, who began his coaching career in the American Basketball Association. "It's a wonderful honor, but there are a lot of losses in there, too."

The Pacers built a 12-point lead in the first half when Charlotte went more than seven minutes without a basket, but had to battle back from a seven-point deficit in the final eight minutes.


(For other results, see Scorecard.)