Falling down
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New York @ Chicago
69 - 98
Record: 32-46
Nate Robinson led the Knicks with 24 points (AP Photo)
Nate Robinson led the Knicks with 24 points (AP Photo)
CHICAGO (AP) - Ben Gordon scored 23 points, and the Chicago Bulls moved a step closer to securing home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs by handing the New York Knicks their most lopsided loss of the season, 98-69 on Tuesday night.

Second in the Eastern Conference, the Bulls (47-32) lead fifth-place Cleveland by a half-game and Atlantic Division winner Toronto by 1 1/2. Chicago owns the tiebreaker over both teams.

The Bulls still have an outside shot at the No. 1 seed, but one more loss by Chicago or a win by Detroit would clinch it for the Pistons.

Gordon was 8-for-14 from the field. Luol Deng scored 15 points, and the Bulls turned 25 turnovers into 30 points.

Nate Robinson scored 24 points for New York (32-46), which lost for the sixth time in seven games. Former Bull Eddy Curry committed two offensive fouls in the opening 1:44 and finished with just four points and seven rebounds.

With four games left, the 10th-place Knicks still have a remote shot at the postseason, but they have to climb over Orlando and Indiana to grab a playoff spot. Against Chicago, they were simply overmatched.

Four of the Knicks' top five scorers - guard Stephon Marbury (sprained right big toe), guard Jamal Crawford (right ankle stress fracture), forward Quentin Richardson (back surgery) and forward David Lee (right leg pain) - were nursing injuries. New York was also without forward Renaldo Balkman , who stayed home with a stomach virus and missed his second consecutive game.

Things quickly unraveled against the Bulls.

Curry, New York's leading scorer, headed to the sideline after picking up those offensive fouls. The Knicks committed seven turnovers in the first 4:01. New York also missed nine of its first 10 shots, which probably explains why Curry checked back in midway through the quarter with the score 12-2.

It was 21-10 after the first quarter and 45-27 at halftime.

The Bulls and Cleveland appeared to be in a two-team race for the second seed, with the loser dropping to fifth. But with Toronto on a roll, the third seed is also a possibility.

Either way, home-court advantage could determine whether the Bulls advance in the playoffs or lose in the first round, considering their road record is 17-22.

The Bulls' most lopsided victory was a 111-66 win over Memphis on Jan. 13. The 66 points were a season-low for an opponent. ... New York's worst defeat before this game was a 123-100 loss to Denver on Dec. 16. ... Bulls F Andres Nocioni , making his first appearance at the United Center since Jan. 27, received a loud ovation when he checked in late in the first quarter. Nocioni had missed 28 of 29 games because of plantar fasciitis in his right foot before returning Sunday at Toronto.

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