Gooden helps keep the Bulls' playoff hopes aliveMar 26, 2008 - 4:47 AM By Rory Spears PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer
CHICAGO (Ticker) - Drew Gooden had one of the best games of his career when the Chicago Bulls needed it most.
Gooden scored 16 of his season-high 31 points in the first quarter to help the Chicago Bulls post a 103-94 victory over the Atlanta Hawks on Tuesday.
The sixth-year pro made his first five shots and was 12-of-23 from the floor, falling just two points shy of his career high. Gooden also had 16 rebounds.
"I am confident enough, I feel that every time I shoot the ball it will go in," Gooden said. "My teammates kept finding me as I was feeling it. They delivered to all the right spots at the right time."
With the win, Chicago (28-42) moved within two games of Atlanta (30-40) for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Each team still has 12 games left to play.
"We live to fight another day," Bulls coach Jim Boylan said. "It's a big win for us, we needed this one and it was a team effort."
The Bulls, who led by 16 points late in the third quarter and by 12 to start the fourth, had to hold off a late charge by the Hawks, who got as close as 87-85 after a Mike Bibby 3-pointer with 6:18 remaining.
Chicago, which has blown a number of games down the stretch this season, was still clinging to a four-point lead late in the quarter, when Ben Gordon drilled a 3-pointer to give the home team a 97-90 advantage with 1:30 left. Atlanta never got closer than five points the rest of the way.
"We had a bad third quarter," Hawks coach Mike Woodson said. "We still had chances to win the game down the stretch, but we made some boneheaded plays."
Gordon finished with 16 points off the bench and Kirk Hinrich added 14 points and 10 assists for Chicago, which made all 16 of its free throw attempts in the game.
"Free throws are always big," Kirk Hinrich said. "If can make those shots from the line, you always improve your chances to win."
Neither team had a lead of more than seven in the first half and Chicago took a one-point edge late in the second quarter before Bibby made a 3-pointer to give the Hawks a 53-51 lead at the break. Gooden led the way for the Bulls with 20 points and 10 rebounds through the first two quarters.
"I think I am finally starting to feel comfortable with our offense," said Gooden, who was playing in his 16th game with the Bulls since Chicago acquired him on February 21. "I was struggling with it when I first got here, now it works for me. I am just glad we got this win, we really needed it."
Chicago opened the third quarter on a 24-6 run - capped by a Gooden three-point play - to take a 75-59 lead with 3:15 left in the quarter.
Josh Childress scored 22 points and Bibby had 18 points and seven assists for the Hawks, who will host the Bulls in the final meeting between the teams this season on Friday.
"We dug ourselves to deep of a hole in the third quarter," Childress said. "The fourth quarter we came back but ran out of gas at the end."
CHICAGO 103 FINAL
Mar 25 10:50 PM
CHICAGO 79 END, 3RD QTR
Mar 25 10:15 PM
CHICAGO 51 HALFTIME
Mar 25 9:36 PM
CHICAGO 26 END, 1ST QTR
Mar 25 9:03 PM
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