Bulls 113, Nets 86

Mirotic scores 28 as Bulls edge Rockets 103-100

Rookie forward Nikola Mirotic scored 26 points, hitting three consecutive 3-pointers in the final 81 seconds of the third quarter when the Bulls seized control, and Chicago prevented the Brooklyn Nets from clinching a playoff spot by posting a 113-86 victory Monday night.Brooklyn’s loss sealed a playoff spot for the Boston Celtics and left the Indiana Pacers, the Nets and the Miami Heat to battle for the final Eastern Conference postseason berth.After losing to Chicago at home for the fourth time in five games (including Game 7 of the 2013 Eastern Conference quarterfinals), the Nets are a half-game behind Indiana for eighth place in the East, although Brooklyn holds the head-to-head tiebreaker.The Pacers have the game in hand since they host the Washington Wizards on Tuesday and visit the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday. The Nets conclude their season Wednesday by hosting the Orlando Magic in a game that begins 90 minutes before Indiana tips off.Miami sits a game behind Brooklyn. The Heat need to win their remaining game at Philadelphia on Wednesday and hope the Pacers and Nets lose all their remaining games.Mirotic had his 11th game with at least 20 points, but his biggest baskets helped the Bulls go from being up 78-63 to 87-65 entering the fourth quarter.The first 3-pointer came from the left corner opposite the Brooklyn bench as forward Earl Clark was late to rotate. The second 3-pointer came from in front of Brooklyn’s bench as Clark was late again with 53 seconds remaining, and the third came from the left wing with 33 seconds left as Nets guard Jarrett Jack was late in defending.Before Mirotic’s perimeter display, the Bulls steadily gained separation from the Nets by getting contributions from forward Pau Gasol, guards Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler much to the delight of the many Chicago fans who were in the stands.The Bulls (49-32) moved a half-game ahead of the Toronto Raptors in the race for the third seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.Gasol posted his league-leading 53rd double-double with 22 points and 11 rebounds. Butler added 17 points, and Rose contributed 13 points and seven assists in his fourth game back from a 20-game absence caused by a right knee injury.While Chicago’s regulars were effective, Brooklyn’s top scorers struggled all night as the Nets lost for the fourth time in six games following a season-high, six-game winning streak.Rookie forward Bojan Bogdanovic led the Nets with 17 points. Jack scored 15, but center Brook Lopez was held to 13. Forward Joe Johnson scored 12 points, and point guard Deron Williams was held to nine while shooting 3-of-13 from the field.The Bulls never trailed after reserve guard Aaron Brooks hit a 3-pointer for a 16-14 lead late in the first quarter. Chicago led by 14 late in the first half, took a 57-50 lead at halftime and then opened the third by making seven of its first eight shots.NOTES: Chicago C Joakim Noah was active but did not play because of left hamstring tendinitis. It was the 13th game he missed but the first with any hamstring issues. Earlier this season, he missed two games with an injured left knee and seven with a right ankle injury. … Chicago G Kirk Hinrich sat out for the third time in six games due to a hyperextended left knee. He also missed games April 3-5 against Detroit and Cleveland, and he played about 34 minutes in the previous three games. … Brooklyn G/F Alan Anderson missed his fifth straight game with a sprained left ankle that he originally injured April 3 against Toronto. … Monday marked the seventh straight home game that the Nets faced an opponent missing a prominent player. Since March 27, the Nets have not faced G Kobe Bryant, F Paul George, G Kyle Lowry, F LaMarcus Aldridge, F Paul Millsap and G John Wall.