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Bulls not only team with something at stake

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM

ATLANTA — There’s so much attention on the Bulls’ quest for the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference that it’s easy to forget every team has its motivations and goals.

Perched 31/2 games ahead of the No. 6 Philadelphia 76ers and five behind the No. 4 Orlando Magic, the Atlanta Hawks want to solidify the No. 5 seed and see if they can catch the Magic, which would give them home-court advantage in a 4-5 matchup.

With a road game tonight against the 76ers and a home date next Wednesday against the Magic, plus remaining games against the Boston Celtics, San Antonio Spurs and Miami Heat, the Hawks are as determined as the Bulls to finish strong.

‘‘A lot of teams are playing for different things,’’ Bulls center Joakim Noah said. ‘‘Players play for different reasons. We’re playing for a No. 1 seed, which is really exciting. Some teams are playing for their lives, just to be in the playoffs. Some players are playing for a check.’’

Finishing strong also is coveted for momentum when the playoffs begin.

‘‘People have different motivations,’’ Noah said. ‘‘Playing for a No. 1 seed is a beautiful thing; it’s important. But we’re also trying to look at the big picture and improve.’’

It’s not easy for players to elevate their games at the end of a six-month grind, but it’s also why they play the game.

‘‘It’s definitely tough, but I’m loving it,’’ Bulls star Derrick Rose said. ‘‘Every game is a clutch game. Everybody’s playing for something. Everybody’s playing hard.’’

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