CHICAGO -- Coming off one of the best performances of his career, Joakim Noah did all he could to match it. He came up short, but not by much. Noah finished with 21 points and 10 rebounds, Carlos Boozer scored 20 and the Chicago Bulls beat the Brooklyn Nets 96-85 on Saturday night. The Bulls went on a 19-0 run that started in the second quarter and stretched into third, giving them an 18-point lead. And they opened March on a winning note after going 5-8 in February, just their second losing month in 2 1/2 seasons under coach Tom Thibodeau. "Its been an up-and-down year," Noah said. "But I really feel like when were playing our best, we can really beat a lot of people. So the potential is definitely there." Their superstar point guard is not playing, and to many, the Bulls can forget about contending for a championship until Derrick Rose is back and dominating. Noah understands the perception. "It doesnt matter," he added. "I know the buildings always packed and theyre showing a lot of love." How could they not like this? Noah followed up the third triple-double of his career with another terrific performance that also included four blocks. He committed five turnovers, but even so, it sure was impressive after Thursdays gem, when he had 23 points, 21 rebounds and a career-high 11 blocks in a win over Philadelphia. Boozer added eight rebounds and tied a career high with five steals. Jimmy Butler had 13 points, Nate Robinson and Kirk Hinrich scored 12 apiece, and the Bulls won their second straight after dropping seven of 10. Brook Lopez led Brooklyn with 22 points -- 14 in the first quarter -- but the Nets fell for the fourth time in five games. Deron Williams cooled off, finishing with 14 after averaging 27 over the previous three games. Joe Johnson scored 11 in his second game back after missing three with a foot injury and committed five of Brooklyns 21 turnovers. "Our energy, effort . isnt there," Johnson said. "We dont get stops and we make it hard on ourselves offensively." On the other side, Noah was all energy, hustling for points and rebounds and dominating in every way. And there was Butler afterward, just smiling and shaking his head in awe. "Its crazy to see a guy like him dominate in every aspect of the game," Butler said. "The way he scores the ball, passes the ball, defends. He always has at least two or three in every category, not to mention 20 points, 20 rebounds. Its amazing to see the energy that he brings and how it transfers from the offensive end all the way back to the defensive end." Noah had 15 points in the first half, and the Bulls led 53-39 at the break after trailing by 11 in the early going. They scored the final 15 points of the second quarter and got a pull-up jumper and driving layup from Boozer to start the third, turning a one-point deficit into a 57-39 lead. Daequan Cook started the run by nailing a 3 with 4:16 remaining in the half, and Robinson and Hinrich struck from long range on back-to-back possessions with about a minute remaining. Butler also scored four during that stretch, including a 20-footer with 18.8 seconds remaining, and Brooklyns C.J. Watson missed a long jumper at the buzzer to keep the lead at 14. "Until we can play consistently for more than a three or four-game stretch, until we can play consistently on the road, particularly now, in March, this is what were gonna be," said interim coach P.J. Carlesimo, who hinted at changes. "We just have to tighten it up. We have to play a lot better, and we have to do it soon." NOTES: Luol Deng scored just eight points for the Bulls after being elbowed in the mouth by Philadelphias Spencer Hawes in Thursdays game. He saw the dentist on Friday and might need root canal on one or more of his teeth thanks to the blow that left him with internal bleeding around the jaw. "I have to wait a few days, see how stable my teeth are and how the recovery is and see if I need a root canal on a few of them," said Deng, who is having difficulty eating. ... G Richard Hamilton missed his second straight game because of back spasms and Thibodeau did not expect him to travel to Indiana, where the Bulls play the Pacers on Sunday. ... This was the first in a stretch of 12 of 15 road games for the Nets, and Carlesimo wasnt thrilled about that. It culminates with eight straight on the road while the Barclays Center hosts the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. "I dont like it," Carlesimo said. "Id much rather the schedule was more balanced and we didnt have the circus in for whatever its in for. A lot of teams go through this at different stages of the year. Some teams are fortunate they schedule away from the playoffs, and it really helps them. Were far from the lone rangers. A lot of teams go through this. Ours is coming at a bad time. You dont want it to happen in March." Pink Sean Lee Jersey
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.C. -- Kyle Larson picked up his first NASCAR national series win on Sunday by holding off Joey Logano on the final restart of the Truck Series race at Rockingham Speedway.NEW YORK -- The New York Rangers insist they are focused much more on their drive toward the playoffs than ending the New Jersey Devils post-season hopes. With a thorough 4-1 victory Sunday, the Broadway Blueshirts took care of both. Ryan Callahan scored a goal in the opening minute and another in the third period, and Henrik Lundqvist made 26 saves as the Rangers eliminated the Devils from the Eastern Conference playoff race. Callahan provided the lead 34 seconds in, Derek Stepan added a goal in the first period, and Taylor Pyatt snapped a long drought in the second for the eighth-place Rangers, who are inching closer to a playoff berth. "Its always nice to beat them," said Brad Richards, who had two assists. "It was a big win for us. Theyre out now, but thats not why we were playing. We were playing because we need to stay alive. Now were down to nine teams, so the odds are better." Of the teams behind the Rangers, only Winnipeg can catch them. New York is even in points with seventh-place Ottawa, but the Senators have four games remaining -- one more than the Rangers. Winnipeg is three points behind with three games left. New York has won three straight and is 8-2-1 in its last 11. The Rangers arent looking too far ahead. After a trip to Florida and Carolina, they will wrap up their season at home Saturday against the Devils. "Were playing our best hockey weve played all year," Callahan said. "Now is the time to do that. Weve been playing playoff-style hockey the last couple of games. These are must-wins for us. It gives us a dress rehearsal for the playoffs." Callahan made it 4-0 at 5:13 of the third with a power-play goal, flipping a shot over sprawled-out goalie Martin Brodeur, who tried to poke away the puck. Brodeur heard derisive chants of "Mar-ty, Mar-ty" throughout and finished with 18 saves. "Its difficult to take," Brodeur said of the elimination. "Weve competed real hard all year." Lundqvist was solid in his 12th straight start, allowing only Andrei Loktionovs goal with 6:30 remaining. The Rangers had more space between games recently. The extra rest has helped Lundqvist stay sharp. He told coach John Tortorella he wont ever ask out of the lineup. "Its like the playoffs have been going on for a couple of weeks," Lundqviist said.dddddddddddd"Its fun to be out there. I dont want to sit on the bench." The Devils wont get a chance to defend their conference title. New Jersey had won two straight -- including 6-2 on Saturday against Florida -- following a 10-game skid (0-6-4). "We pride ourselves on being there every year," forward Stephen Gionta said. "Unfortunately, were not. It definitely hurts. The organization prides itself on winning and being in the playoffs every year. Anything less is a disappointment." Madison Square Garden fans serenaded the Devils with chants of "Seasons over" as time ticked down in the third. "It hasnt sunk in," said Devils coach Pete DeBoer, who was ejected in the closing seconds for unsportsmanlike conduct. "You dont want to think about it until its actually a reality. No other word but disappointment." The Devils had already been called for two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties, one that cost them a power-play goal, before DeBopart," he said. "Two of our players were given unsportsmanlike conducts in an elimination game. The sensitivity of some of the officials is beyond me." With a 3-0 lead heading into the third period, the Rangers had all but sealed New Jerseys fate. New York is 85-0-6 when leading after two periods, dating to Feb. 4, 2010. The Rangers came out quickly, seemingly motivated to put the Devils away early. New Jersey knocked out New York in last years conference finals. New York connected right away, scoring while Brodeur was looking the opposite way from where the puck was. Carl Hagelin worked to get free from defenders behind the net, and flung the puck in front to Callahan, who was near the left post. While Brodeur had his head turned away from him, trying to find the puck he thought was behind the net, Callahan nudged it forward off of Brodeurs skate and into the net for his 13th goal. "They were waiting for us. We played yesterday," Brodeur said. "They were able to score the first goal, and that made a big difference in the momentum." NOTES: Pyatt played in his 800th NHL game. ... Rangers C Brian Boyle missed his third straight game because of a right leg injury. ... Volchenkov returned after serving a four-game suspension for elbowing. ' ' '