Chicago orchestrated an amazing turnaround after its dismal start by going 20-7 in January and February to put itself in the middle of its first playoff race since 1997-98—Michael Jordan’s final season with the Bulls.
However, Chicago has been slipping of late with seven losses in its last 10 games, and four straight after a 94-90 defeat to the New Orleans Hornets on Friday.
The Bulls, who have had their struggles with injuries, are averaging just 86.2 points per game and 37.5 percent shooting during the skid.
Chicago hopes to have leading scorer Eddy Curry back in the lineup Saturday. The 6-foot-11 center averages 15.6 points and 5.4 rebounds per game, but has been bothered by a strained left hamstring. He sat on the bench in uniform as the Bulls scored a season-low 10 points in the paint against the Hornets.
Rookie forward Luol Deng has missed nine games with a sprained right ankle, and is listed as day-to-day.
Kirk Hinrich, a gametime decision with a sore left hamstring Friday, scored a team-high 27 points for Chicago, which plays three of its next four games on the road.
“We can’t get our heads down, I think that was the problem making it four in a row. Guys just need to loosen up, don’t get uptight,” said Bulls forward Tyson Chandler, who had 13 points, 15 rebounds and five blocked shots Friday.
The Bulls are in seventh place in the Eastern Conference, but just one game ahead of Philadelphia. The Sixers have won three of their last four to pull a full game ahead of the Orlando Magic for the eighth and final spot in the East.
Iverson, the NBA’s leading scorer, injured his left thumb Tuesday in a win over the Los Angeles Lakers. The 6-foot guard, who didn’t practice the previous two days or take part in Friday’s morning shootaround, added nine rebounds and five assists in 44 minutes.
Kyle Korver had 15 points and 11 rebounds for the Sixers, who had a season-high 13 blocks.
The Sixers, 14-3 at home against the East this season, have won 10 of the last 13 meetings with the Bulls, including five straight at the Wachovia Center.
They open a three-game homestand Saturday.