Michael Jordan, playing less than half the game because of tendinitis in his left knee, has the playoffs on his mind in a different way than the Atlanta Hawks do.
The Chicago Bulls, although their starters all played less than 30 minutes, damaged the Hawks' playoff hopes Monday night with a 100-93 victory.
Atlanta fell into a tie with idle Miami for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, as New Jersey beat Orlando to break a tie with the Hawks and pull even with Indiana for the sixth.
Jordan, the league's leading scorer with a 30-point average, played 23 minutes and scored a season-low 12 points.
He will not accompany the team to Cleveland for tonight's game. The Bulls, with a 65-14 record, already have clinched home-court advantage throughout the playoffs.
"If it was the playoffs, I'd be playing," said Jordan, adding that the decision to skip the Cavaliers' game was made after Monday's game when Coach Phil Jackson asked him if he wanted today off.
"I said yes," said Jordan, whose only other miss of a game this season was at Phoenix because of a suspension.
Jordan said he felt some pain during warmups. "It's not an aggravated pain," he said. "It's like when you push off, like someone sticking a needle in there."
After looking at the box score of the game, Atlanta Coach Bob Weiss said: "We got beat by a ghost--the ghost of the Chicago Bulls. We couldn't beat their second team. We didn't make our free throws (19 of 26) and couldn't convert on the break. We were tight . . . too tight."
Scottie Pippen scored 16 points and reserve guard B.J. Armstrong had 15 for the Bulls.
Stacey Augmon scored 27 points for the Hawks.
New Jersey 110, Orlando 104--Drazen Petrovic scored 29 points at Orlando to lead the Nets a step closer to their first playoff berth since 1986.
New Jersey and the Pacers (both 38-41) are a full game ahead of Atlanta and Miami (both 37-42) with three games to play. One of the four teams won't make the playoffs.
Utah 138, Golden State 99--Karl Malone scored 42 points as the Jazz won big at Salt Lake City to move into a tie with the Warriors for the Western Conference's second-best record.