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Harris rises to challenge again with 42 points as Nets take down Bulls

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Devin Harris is single-handedly putting the New Jersey Nets back in the playoff picture.

Harris scored 19 of his 42 points in the fourth quarter and carried the Nets for the second straight game in a 111-99 victory over the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday night.

"Now is the time," Harris said after the Nets (26-32) pulled into a tie with Chicago for the ninth best record in the Eastern Conference, a game behind Milwaukee. "We really can't wait anymore. We can't be patient. I'd rather be aggressive than passive. Being more aggressive on offense is what I'm trying to do right now."

Harris' dazzling performance came just two days after he scored 39 points and hit a buzzer-beating half-court shot for a win over Philadelphia.

He might have been better against the Bulls. The All-Star point guard hit 7 of 9 shots from the field in the final 12 minutes in handing Chicago only its fifth loss in 13 games.

"I wanted to be aggressive and try and control the game as much as possible," Harris said. "The last two times we played this team, they made all the big plays in the fourth quarter. We definitely wanted to change things up."

Reserve Bobby Simmons added 18 points and rookie Brook Lopez had 13. Vince Carter had 11 points and nine rebounds.

The Nets set a franchise record hitting all 25 of their free throws. Their previous best was 23-of-23 in 1999, also against the Bulls.

Ben Gordon had 17 points and recently acquired John Salmons added 15 points to lead the Bulls, who were a woeful 7-for-25 from the field in the final quarter, including one of their first 11.

Gordon was miffed after the game.

"We were doing stupid stuff the whole game and kind of shot ourselves in the foot," Gordon said. "Stupid shots, stupid decisions, bad defense. We lost this one tonight, if you ask me."

What annoyed Gordon even more was the way they played against a team they are fighting for a playoff spot.

"We shouldn't play like this, so it is definitely disappointing," he added. "This is a beatable team. We beat them twice already this season. The game was there. The game was there for us if we wanted it. We just didn't play the way we needed to."

Chicago, which was coming off an impressive win over Orlando in its first game since acquiring Salmons, Brad Miller and Tim Thomas in trades, seemed in control late in the third quarter after Kirk Hinrich hit three straight baskets to give the Bulls a 78-69 lead.

Harris suddenly started hitting everything. He converted a three-point play after getting Salmons off the floor on a jumper and hit a high-arcing layup to close the gap to 78-74 after three quarters.

Keyon Dooling got New Jersey within a point with an early 3-pointer, but Gordon hit a jumper to push the lead to 80-77.

A shot in the lane by backup center Sean Williams and two free throws by Dooling gave New Jersey an 81-80 lead before Chicago took its last lead at 82-81 on two free throws by Salmons.

Harris then went wild. He hit a layup, went down the lane for another basket and nailed a 3-pointer to give New Jersey an 88-82 edge. After feeding Lopez inside for a three-point play, Harris hit another jumper to give the Nets a 93-83 lead.

"You're not going to get 39 and 42 every night," Nets coach Lawrence Frank said. "He's an All-Star. I think he's playing like one. I think he understands the moment and where we're at in keeping our eyes on the prize and how valuable every game is. He's leading by example."

New Jersey built the lead to as many as 16 points down the stretch with Harris hitting a late 3-pointer before walking off to a standing ovation.

"He's confident, shooting the ball extremely well," Carter added. "He's reading the defense and we just try to spread the floor for him."

Game notes
Carter passed Derrick Coleman (1,859) for No. 3 all-time on the Nets in free throws made. ... Bulls F Tyrus Thomas blocked two shots and now has blocks in 18 consecutive games. ... Williams has replaced Josh Boone as the Nets' backup center. Boone has not played the last two games. ... The Bulls beat the Nets twice earlier this season. ... Nets F Jarvis Hayes returned to the lineup after missing two games with torn ligaments in his left thumb.