The Chicago Bulls got by without one of their top players the last time out. They’ll likely be able to do it again.
With Luol Deng’s status still uncertain, the Bulls look to win consecutive home games for the first time in almost a month, while trying to hand the New York Knicks their eighth straight loss as the teams meet for the final time in 2007-08 on Tuesday night at the United Center.
Deng, likely the team’s most consistent player who averages 17.9 points and is shooting a team-best 47.2 percent, missed Chicago’s 94-93 home win over Sacramento on Saturday with left Achilles” tendinitis which was aggravated in Thursday’s loss to Portland.
“Hopefully, the rest will do him some good,” interim coach Jim Boylan said. “He seems to be feeling a little bit better, so we’re keeping our fingers crossed on that.”
Though Deng is averaging 23.0 points in two game versus New York this season, the Bulls (13-19) are still in better position for a third straight win over the Knicks (8-24), then the visitors will be in trying to avoid matching their longest losing skid of the season.
Chicago won 100-83 at New York on Dec. 30 in the teams’ most recent meeting. The Bulls won 101-96 on Dec. 14 in the previous meeting at the United Center between two of the Eastern Conference’s most disappointing teams.
The Bulls, who haven’t won consecutive home games since Dec. 11-14, have won seven in a row there over New York.
Saturday, Andres Nocioni started in place of Deng and finished with a team-high 26 points and five rebounds, highlighted by a 5-for-7 effort from 3-point range for the Bulls, who improved to 4-2 under Boylan.
“If you watch his game, usually if he is rebounding, he is into the flow of the game,” said Boylan of Nocioni, who averages 13.6 points overall, but 16.0 in eight starts.
He had 23 points and nine rebounds starting in place of Deng in the Knicks’ 85-78 home win over the Bulls on Nov. 24.
Ben Wallace had 11 rebounds and scored his only point on a game-winning free throw with 3.2 seconds left against the Kings. Ben Gordon had 20 points and is averaging 28.2 points since coming off the bench on Dec. 28.
Gordon had 25 versus the Knicks in the last meeting.
“Ben is a starter,” forward Zach Randolph told the Knicks’ official Web site. “Everybody in the league knows that. He could start on any other NBA team, but that’s an advantage for them. He’s a tough player.”
Randolph returned from serving a one-game suspension to finish with 18 points and a career-high 22 rebounds in New York’s 103-91 loss at Houston on Saturday. Nate Robinson matched a season high with 25 points for the Knicks, who are averaging 92.1 points, while giving up 102.4 during their current losing streak.
Randolph had 18 points and 12 rebounds in the last meeting with Chicago, while Robinson had 19 points. Randolph has averaged 21.7 points and 11.0 rebounds in the three games versus Chicago.
New York, which hasn’t won since a 108-90 victory over Cleveland on Dec. 19, is 1-13 on the road and has lost six in a row away from home.