The Chicago Bulls have had no trouble thoroughly overpowering
inferior opponents with Derrick Rose hampered by a sore back.
Considering the way things went in Boston a month ago, the Bulls
will likely need their leading scorer and reigning league MVP on
the court for Sunday’s matchup with the Celtics to push their
winning streak to six.
Rose is uncertain if he’ll play in the finale of Chicago’s
nine-game, 15-day road trip after sitting out Friday’s 95-64 win
“I really don’t know,” Rose said before Saturday’s practice.
“When I wake up, I usually can tell. I’ll probably know by the time
I wake up.”
Although Friday was the first time Rose was sidelined because of
back pain, he had played limited minutes in the Bulls’ previous two
games, combining for 10 points and six assists in easy wins over
New Jersey and New Orleans.
Despite getting nominal production from its leader, Chicago
(23-6) hasn’t missed a beat.
With Friday’s easy victory, the Bulls became the first team ever
to win four consecutive road games by at least 20 points. These
games have been decided early, with Chicago outscoring its last
four opponents by an average of 14.5 first-quarter points.
“Our depth is our greatest strength right now,” said Joakim
Noah, who had 17 points and 14 rebounds against the Bobcats.
“Obviously we know that we need everybody healthy (come playoffs).
This is definitely not a sprint, it’s a marathon.”
Although the Bulls, owners of the league’s best record, are
mindful of their long-term goal, they would certainly like to have
Rose in uniform against a Boston team smarting from a pair of
Chicago won the first meeting 88-79 on Jan. 13 in Boston thanks
to Rose’s big fourth quarter. With the Bulls up one with 10 minutes
remaining, Rose, playing with a sprained left big toe, scored
Chicago’s next seven points and the Celtics never got closer than
Although Rose carried Chicago down the stretch, he wasn’t the
only Bull to frustrate the Celtics, as Luol Deng finished with 21
points and 16 rebounds.
Deng has been one of several Bulls to step up while Rose has
been hurting, averaging 15.3 points in the last four games after
missing the previous seven with a torn ligament in his left
Defense has also been key in Chicago’s last four games, with the
team allowing an average of 77.0 points and 37.8 percent
While the Bulls are playing superbly despite their star being
slowed, the Celtics (14-12) are suddenly in a little funk.
After losing to the Los Angeles Lakers by one point in overtime
Thursday, Boston looked lifeless a night later against lowly
Toronto, never leading in an 86-74 loss. The Celtics, who had won
nine of ten before Thursday’s defeat, dropped back-to-back games
for the first time since a five-game skid Jan. 6-16.
“We just didn’t show the mental toughness,” Paul Pierce said.
“We feel like we’re getting so close to being the team we want to
be and to take a couple of steps back is definitely frustrating.
These are games we’re supposed to win.”
Pierce, Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo all struggled against the
Raptors, combining for 23 points on 9-of-29 shooting.
The Celtics fell to 1-10 when scoring 88 points or fewer, which
doesn’t bode well against a Chicago team that allows an average of