By ANDREW SELIGMAN, Associated Press
CHICAGO (AP) — The Chicago Bulls aren't quite finished after all.
Luol Deng scored 24 points, Carlos Boozer added 19 points and 13 rebounds, and Chicago beat the Philadelphia 76ers 77-69 on Tuesday night to avoid a first-round playoff exit.
The top-seeded Bulls finally won without point guard Derrick Rose, building a nine-point halftime lead and staying in control down the stretch to pull within 3-2. Game 6 is Thursday in Philadelphia.
It's been a brutal series for the Bulls, with Rose tearing the ACL in his left knee late in the opener and center Joakim Noah spraining his left ankle in Game 3. He sat out his second straight game, but Chicago refused to bow out quietly.
Instead, the Bulls locked down the Sixers, holding them to a season-low 32.1 percent shooting. And with Boozer and Deng coming up big, Chicago kept its season going.
Deng played more like an All-Star after averaging just eight points in the previous three games, hitting 4 of 5 3-point attempts — three in the fourth quarter. He also grabbed eight rebounds. Boozer tied a career-playoff high with six assists, and the Bulls came out on top just when their season appeared to be unraveling.
They still have no room for error.
A loss Thursday would make them the fifth No. 1 seed to lose to a No. 8 seed in the first round and the second in as many years, after San Antonio fell to Memphis last season. But if they continue to play like this, the Bulls just might have a shot.
Jrue Holiday scored 16 points for Philadelphia but hit just 5 of 17 shots. Lou Williams scored 13 points and Andre Iguodala and Spencer Hawes both finished with 11. Hawes scored 21 and 22 the previous two games, although he did grab 14 rebounds, and the Sixers remained one win from their first series victory since 2003.
The Bulls took a 57-48 lead into the fourth quarter after another injury scare late in the third.
This time, Taj Gibson came up clutching his right ankle and hit the court after fouling Lavoy Allen underneath with just over 2 minutes left in the quarter. He came back early in the fourth to loud cheers, and the crowd was really roaring when Deng nailed a 3 to make it 67-52, giving the Bulls their biggest lead.
They had more to cheer when Gibson hit a jumper, pumping his fist, and two free throws to get the lead 71-58. And they were really screaming moments later when guard Ronnie Brewer blocked Elton Brand on a putback.
Deng had it going early on, scoring 11 points in the first half. And the Bulls led 35-26 after closing it out on a 10-2 run in which things got heated.
Boozer missed a jumper. Gibson and Brand wound up on the court near the Bulls bench in a scramble for the loose ball, and they kept going at it as players from both sides joined the scrum.
Brewer and Evan Turner appeared to exchange some heated words, but Gibson and Brand wound up getting technical fouls with 2:25 left.
Boozer scored on a reverse layup and Brewer hit a runner to make it a nine-point game with a minute left, while the Sixers simply couldn't convert. They missed their final four shots of the half, including a tip and layup by Hawes, and were just 4 of 23 in the second quarter.
Notes: Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau again said a timetable for Rose's surgery has not been set. "They're still talking things over," he said. ... Fans gave Rose a loud ovation and he responded with a wave when he was shown seated in a suite during a second-quarter timeout. ... Brand had five points for Philadelphia, and Turner scored four.
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