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Hinrich, Bulls top Pistons, clinch playoff berth

Mar 30, 2007 - 4:23 AM CHICAGO (Ticker) -- Carlos Delfino left his feet on defense. Kirk Hinrich and the Chicago Bulls took advantage.

Hinrich nailed two free throws with 2.8 seconds left as the Bulls clinched a playoff berth with their fourth straight victory, 83-81, over the shorthanded Detroit Pistons.

Ben Gordon scored 25 points and Tyrus Thomas added 13 and 10 rebounds for Chicago (43-30), which is one-half game behind second-place Cleveland (43-29) and three games behind Detroit (45-26) for the top spot in the Central Division and No. 1 seed in the East.

"These games are important for us, we have a chance to win this conference," Hinrich said. "We have to take care of business and see what happens."

"We are not worried about our seed," Gordon said of clinching a postseason berth. "We are just trying to be a better basketball team."

Chauncey Billups admitted Chicago was more motivated.

"No doubt about it (the Bulls had more motivation)," Billups said. "They are looking at us, and we are where they want to be. I am sure it meant a lot to them winning this game at home. I know we get another crack at them soon."

The Bulls will face the Cavaliers on Saturday and the Pistons again next Wednesday.

Trailing by 12 points with 3:56 left, the Pistons went on a 14-2 run. Tayshaun Prince capped the run with a follow shot with 9.8 seconds remaining to tie the game at 81-81. But Delfino's folly on the other end of the floor sunk Detroit.

"I thought both teams played hard," Pistons coach Flip Saunders said. "Neither team played great but for us on the road missing Rip (Hamilton) and Chris (Webber), then Chauncey having his worst game in a while, I am just happy we hung there and had an opportunity to win at the end."

On the ensuing possession, Hinrich's pump fake at the top of the key, caused Delfino to fly in the air and knock the Bulls guard off course as he was rising for a 3-pointer.

"This is not the first time I have done that," Delfino said. "I have to get better and work on that. The team worked hard in the fourth quarter and then my mistake cost us."

After missing the first free throw, Hinrich made the next two to make it 83-81. Prince then fired an airball as time expired on the game's final possession.

Hinrich had 15 points on 5-of-14 shooting, Gordon was 8-of-19 and Thomas was 5-of-9 for the Bulls, who shot just 36 percent but outrebounded the Pistons, 51-37.

Along with Thomas' contribution on the glass, former Piston Ben Wallace corralled 19 rebounds.

"I thought Wallace had a great night, and so did Thomas," Chicago coach Scott Skiles said. "Tyrus was around the glass all night and that helped."

Detroit played without starters Hamilton and Webber, both out with the flu. In their absence, Prince scored 26 points and Rasheed Wallace added 19.

"We fought hard, but give them credit they played good," Billups said. "They took us out of a lot of things we like to do. Obviously, they knew we were shorthanded."

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