Mired in their worst stretch of the season, the Chicago Bulls might not have their injured All-Star center to help them end it.
It’s uncertain if Joakim Noah will be available as the visiting Bulls try to avoid a season-high third straight defeat and take the season series with the Boston Celtics on Friday night.
After averaging 103.7 points and allowing 96.5 per game in winning 13 of 15, Chicago (26-14) has scored 94.2 per contest while yielding an average of 102.4 in losing four of five. Derrick Rose had a season-high 32 points, but the Bulls allowed Washington to shoot 51.3 percent during a 105-99 home defeat Wednesday.
”It is basketball. You can’t play this sport and be perfect,” said Rose, who tied a career-best with six 3-pointers while playing a season-high 36:33.
”We’re just going through a little bit of adversity right now. But it seems like guys are trying their hardest and it’s just not going our way right now. We’ll find our way through this. It’s still early, still have a lot of basketball to play."
While Rose isn’t ready to panic, the road to recovery could get rockier if Noah misses a significant amount of time after turning his right ankle Wednesday. Though Noah’s averaging 7.6 points and 9.4 boards after setting career-highs of 12.6 and 11.3 rebounds last season, he remains the team’s vocal and emotional leader and is still a solid inside presence along with Pau Gasol.
Coach Tom Thibodeau isn’t sure how serious the latest setback might be for Noah, who missed four straight games with an injury to the same ankle last month.
"We’ll see where he is,” said Thibodeau, whose team also could be without veteran Mike Dunleavy for an eighth straight game with an ankle injury.
"It’s tough to build continuity that way when you have guys in and out," Thibodeau told the Bulls’ official website. "That’s our reality; we have to figure it out, we have to deal with it.
"We still have to find a way to win. We can’t hang our heads and we can’t make excuses. We’ve just got to find a way to win."
Rose (17.5 ppg) is doing his part while going 20 of 37 from the floor in the last two games and averaging 23.0 points in his last three.
After sitting out Chicago’s 106-101 home loss to the Celtics (13-24) on Nov. 8, Rose hit half of his 18 shots to finish with 21 points in a 109-102 win at Boston on Nov. 28. He scored 12 while Gasol had 29 and 16 boards in a 109-104 overtime home victory over the Celtics on Jan. 3.
Gasol, who totaled 74 points with 32 boards in two games prior to finishing with 13 and eight Wednesday, has averaged 21.0 points and 13.3 rebounds against the Celtics this season.
Boston guard Avery Bradley (13.2 ppg) has averaged 16.0 points against the Bulls in 2014-15, and scored a team-high 17 in Wednesday’s 105-91 loss to Eastern Conference-leading Atlanta.
The Celtics allowed the Hawks to shoot 49.3 percent and committed 17 turnovers as they fell to 4-10 since trading star guard Rajon Rondo to Dallas on Dec. 18.
"Make simple plays, don’t turn the ball over," Bradley said. "That’s what we need to do."
Boston has lost three of four without leading scorer Jeff Green, who was sent to Memphis in a deal that was finalized Monday.