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Murphy, Ford lead Pacers past Bulls

Feb 22, 2009 - 9:07 PM INDIANAPOLIS (Ticker) -- T.J. Ford played big down the stretch.

Ford scored three huge baskets in the final minutes as the Indiana Pacers posted a 98-91 victory over the Chicago Bulls on Sunday.

Trying to stay in the playoff picture in the Eastern Conference, the Pacers are without two of their key players in leading scorer Danny Granger (foot) and Mike Dunleavy Jr. (knee).

Indiana is 5-1 without Granger, a first-time All-Star, and 4-1 without both Granger and Dunleavy.

"It is surprising, but I think teams look at that and come into the game seeing we're missing Mike and Danny, they might take us a little lightly," said Pacers forward Troy Murphy, who collected a season-high 27 points and 14 rebounds.

One of the players who stepped up in the absence of Granger and Dunleavy on Sunday was the 6-foot Ford, who finished with 19 points, eight rebounds and five assists in 38 minutes.

However, the lightning-quick Ford decided to get offensive at the right time as the Pacers won their second straight game.

After Ben Gordon hit a jumper with 2:15 remaining, Ford drilled a shot from the elbow, then converted a leaner before showcasing some of his athletic ability with a dunk off a steal for a seven-point lead with 69 seconds left.

Ford's 3-pointer with 3:56 left also put Indiana in front for good.

"Coach (Jim O'Brien) just talks about us being aggressive and showing some determination," Ford said.

While he came up big late, Ford locked down Bulls rookie Derrick Rose the entire afternoon. The first pick in June's draft managed just three points on an abysmal 1-of-9 shooting.

The performances by Ford and Murphy allowed the Pacers to overcome a stretch in the second half in which they went nearly 12 minutes without a basket.

Gordon scored 22 of his 28 points in the first half for the new-look Bulls, who made a pair of moves at Thursday's trade deadline as they also try to stay in the playoff hunt.

"They've got good, young players and they've got a lot of pride," Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro said of the Pacers.

In the first half, Gordon looked unstoppable as he made 9-of-11 shots from the field. The explosive start kept the Bulls in the game as Indiana held a 52-51 halftime lead.

But Gordon cooled after intermission, going 3-of-9 from the floor the rest of the way.

As Gordon became a non-factor, the Pacers built a 69-55 lead on Maceo Baston's basket with under 5:46 minutes left in the third quarter. But the Pacers went without a basket the rest of the quarter as the Bulls clawed within 75-74 entering the final period.

John Salmons and Tim Thomas both made their debuts for the Bulls after being acquired in separate deals from the Sacramento Kings and New York Knicks, respectively. Salmons netted 12 points while Thomas contributed five.

Tyrus Thomas added 16 points for the Bulls, who shot shot 43 percent (34-of-79).

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