With their longest losing streak of the season finally behind them and some key players back from injury, the Chicago Bulls hope to make a late push for a playoff berth.
The Bulls look to win consecutive games for the first time in a month when they host the Houston Rockets on Monday night.
With All-Star guard Derrick Rose(notes) and forward Joakim Noah(notes) in the lineup, Chicago (32-37) snapped a 10-game skid with a 98-84 win at Philadelphia on Saturday. After missing four games with a sprained wrist, Rose scored 23 points in 37 minutes as the Bulls won for the first time since beating Portland on Feb. 26 - also the last time they won back-to-back games.
The Bulls are ninth in the Eastern Conference, 2 1/2 games behind Toronto for the final playoff spot with 13 left.
“You have to start with one to get to two,” coach Vinny Del Negro told the team’s official Web site.
That could become easier with Rose and Noah on the court.
Rose is averaging a team-leading 20.4 points. Though Noah had just seven points and four rebounds in nine minutes Saturday after missing 10 games with a foot injury, his hard-nosed play tends to spark the Bulls.
Chicago averaged 95.8 points and 15.0 turnovers in the four games without Rose, who shot 9 of 16 from the field against the 76ers. The Bulls’ defense was the story, however, as they held lowly Philadelphia to 40.2 percent shooting and 1 of 17 from 3-point range.
“Having Rose and Noah back really helped,” Del Negro said. “It was a nice win, knowing what we’ve been through.”
Chicago will now try to avoid losing six in a row at home for the first time since a nine-game skid from March 6-April 5, 2002.
“We have to stay focused and stay on edge and see what happens,” Noah said.
Rose had 20 points in a 104-97 win at Houston on Jan. 23, Chicago’s second straight victory in the series after dropping six consecutive meetings.
Houston (36-32) is ninth in the West and has won five of six, defeating New York 116-112 on Sunday. The Rockets have averaged 107.8 points and 48.4 percent from the field in the last six games.
Martin is averaging 22.9 points in 15 games since being acquired from Sacramento in the trade that sent Tracy McGrady(notes) to the Knicks. Brooks is averaging a team-leading and career-high 19.9 points this season.
Martin averaged 29.5 points in his last two games at Chicago, while Brooks had 20 against the Bulls earlier this season.
The Rockets could be without Battier, who hyperextended his knee against the Knicks.