With the regular season winding down, the Philadelphia 76ers can’t afford having players sit out due to injuries. The Chicago Bulls certainly aren’t in any position to force any more players to stay on the bench.
The 76ers hope to have their two top guards in the lineup Friday night when they visit a Bulls team trying to make a playoff push despite team turmoil.
Philadelphia (31-34), in seventh place in the Eastern Conference, has gained some confidence following its biggest win of the season. In a possible first-round playoff matchup, the 76ers won 83-82 at Detroit on Wednesday night.
Starting guard Willie Green, though, missed the game with a lower back strain. Green, averaging 13.0 points per game, is uncertain for Friday’s contest. With Green out, swingman Andre Iguodala moved to guard and Reggie Evans started at forward.
Andre Miller, Green’s backcourt mate, left the game in the fourth quarter after straining his lower back. He expects to play against the Bulls (26-38), but missing Miller for an extended period would be a big blow to the Sixers’ playoff chances.
Miller’s play has been perhaps the biggest reason Philadelphia has a shot at making the playoffs for the first time in three years. The veteran is averaging 16.8 points, 6.7 assists, 4.0 rebounds and 1.2 steals a contest.
Chicago, chasing a postseason spot in the East, has had its lineup depleted in recent games.
Chris Duhon missed a shootaround at Detroit on Sunday and made some comments that didn’t sit well with management after being held out of that game, a 116-109 Chicago loss. He was then inactive Tuesday night in a 108-96 win over Utah in what interim coach Jim Boylan said was a “coach’s decision.”
Duhon’s incident wasn’t the only episode the Bulls have had to deal with this month.
“When people question our team, I respond that we have guys in the locker room with a lot of character who care about their craft and work at it,” Boylan said. “The guys were hurt the last couple days. There were a lot of things swirling around our team, and no one likes to see that stuff in the paper. This is a basketball team, not a soap opera.”
The drama overshadowed the win over the Jazz, one of the league’s top teams. The Bulls are tied for ninth place in the East, one-half game behind eighth-place New Jersey.
Philadelphia, meanwhile, will be trying to build off its win over the East’s second-best team. The Sixers’ victory over the Pistons came two days after a 14-point home loss to the conference’s other power, Boston.
“We talked about that - playing two of the top teams in the East and coming out 1-1,” Philadelphia coach Maurice Cheeks said. “We feel pretty good about that.”
Philadelphia and Chicago have split two games this season, with each team winning on the road.