Wizards-Bulls Preview

While Derrick Rose doesn’t appear likely to return, the Chicago

Bulls are getting relatively healthy as they wrap up the regular

season.

That certainly won’t hurt the Bulls’ chances as they look to

finish with the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference on Wednesday

night when they host the sinking Washington Wizards.

After losing four of five, Chicago (44-37) seemed to be

re-energized Monday with Luol Deng, Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson

looking healthier in a 102-84 victory at lowly Orlando.

Deng, battling a hip injury which recently caused him to miss

two games, may be returning to form after totaling 37 points in the

last two. He scored 18 and shot 8 of 11 while grabbing eight

rebounds Monday.

Noah (right foot) played for the second time in 14 games, and

Gibson (left knee) was back following an eight-game absence. The

big men combined for 18 points and six rebounds in 36 minutes off

the bench to help the Bulls avoid a third straight loss.

“I’m just happy that my foot held up,” Noah said. “I think we’re

a pretty deep team. We just need to play together and get our

chemistry right. The last game is important.”

That’s because Chicago can secure the No. 5 seed in the East by

finishing in a tie with Atlanta. The Bulls own the tiebreaker,

having won two of three from the Hawks.

They’ll face fourth-place Brooklyn if they finish fifth, or

Central Division champion Indiana should they fall to sixth.

Chicago took three of four from the Nets and lost three of four to

the Pacers.

Whether Rose (knee) will be back for the postseason is still to

be determined, but for now, the Bulls are focused on moving forward

with their current group.

“You have to make the best of whatever your circumstances are,”

coach Tom Thibodeau said. “Having so many guys out, and then some

guys resting down the stretch, gave our guys an opportunity to

grow.”

Thibodeau’s team has dropped the last two meetings with the

Wizards, but both were in the nation’s capital. Washington has lost

seven of eight in Chicago and seven straight on the road

overall.

Neither team has scored more than 90 points in this season’s

three matchups and neither has reached 100 in the past seven.

After showing plenty of promise once John Wall returned from a

knee injury, the Wizards (29-52) aren’t finishing the season the

way they’d hoped. They’ve dropped five in a row and blew a 17-point

lead Monday in a 106-101 loss to Brooklyn, which played without

four of its five regular starters.

“I don’t care if this is the second-to-last game or not, you’ve

got to have a little bit of pride to play defense in the fourth

quarter to win a game,” coach Randy Whitman said after his team

gave up 33 points in the fourth.

Wall, who had 18 points and 12 assists Monday, has averaged 25.8

points over his last 12 games. He led the way with 27 points, nine

assists and eight rebounds in a 90-86 win over Chicago on April

2.

Starters Nene (knee, foot), Martell Webster (abdomen) and

Bradley Beal (leg) have been ruled out.

The Wizards will try to win this season series for the first

time since 2007-08.