76ers-Bulls Preview

While the moves the Chicago Bulls made at the trade deadline

were done with an eye toward building a championship contender next

year, their current play is helping keep them in playoff position

this season.

The Bulls look for a fourth consecutive victory when they host

the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday night.

By trading swingman John Salmons and underachieving former

fourth-overall pick Tyrus Thomas on Thursday, Chicago (28-26) could

have almost $20 million in salary cap space to go after a group of

marquee free agents that include LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and

Chris Bosh.

In the meantime, the Bulls remain focused on reaching the

playoffs for a second consecutive season.

“All the guys who were here before, the guys now – the goal in

this league is to win,” guard Kirk Hinrich said. “I feel like

we’ve put ourselves in a good position to have a good strong

finish.”

Chicago is tied for sixth in the Eastern Conference after

winning 100-94 at Minnesota on Friday for its third straight

victory since the All-Star break and fifth in six games. The Bulls

are in the midst of a favorable stretch with seven of their eight

games out of the break against teams with losing records.

Philadelphia (21-33) is one of those clubs. Though the 76ers

beat the Bulls 106-103 in overtime at home Feb. 3, they’ve dropped

their last two trips to the United Center, including a 94-88

decision on Nov. 14.

All-Star and reigning rookie of the year Derrick Rose has

averaged 20.3 points and 6.3 assists while shooting 54.0 percent in

six career games against the 76ers. He had 30 points and nine

assists at Philadelphia earlier this month, and despite still

dealing with a sore hip, scored 19 with eight rebounds and five

assists against the Timberwolves.

Hinrich, who had 19 against the 76ers in November, notched a

team-high 20 points Friday for the Bulls, who’ve averaged 111.0 on

50.4 percent shooting while beating Minnesota and New York twice in

their last three games.

Hakim Warrick, acquired from Milwaukee in the Salmons deal, had

10 points and nine boards in his Chicago debut Friday.

Chicago is likely to be without forward Joakim Noah for an

eighth straight contest due to plantar fasciitis in his left

foot.

“We want to be smart about it,” Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro said

of Noah’s injury.

Philadelphia opens a four-game road trip after avoiding its

third consecutive loss with a 106-94 home win over San Antonio on

Friday.

Andre Iguodala had 20 points, nine rebounds and eight assists

while Lou Williams scored 14 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter

and Elton Brand finished with 18 as the 76ers won for the sixth

time in eight contests.

Iguodala bounced back after totaling 19 points in his previous

two contests and the 76ers outscored the Spurs 33-18 in the fourth

quarter.

“That’s the winning quarter,” said Williams, who also had 20

points at Chicago in November.

Iguodala scored 24 at Chicago earlier this season, and 25 with

eight rebounds and eight assists against the Bulls earlier this

month. The Springfield, Ill, native has averaged 23.0 points, 7.8

boards and 6.0 assists in his last five games at the United

Center.

Brand, the No. 1 overall pick by the Bulls in the 1999, has

averaged 19.7 points and 11.1 rebounds in 15 career games against

his former team. He had 26 earlier this month versus Chicago.