The Bulls, though, might not have to go without the league’s reigning MVP for much longer.
Chicago is hopeful Derrick Rose will return after missing nearly a month to face New York on Sunday at Madison Square Garden.
Rose practiced with the Bulls (43-13) on Saturday and declared himself ready to return after missing the last 12 games with a groin injury.
“My groin is not bothering me,” Rose said. “I’m happy to move on. My spirits are up. … And hopefully I’ll be playing Sunday.”
Coach Tom Thibodeau is still calling his star a game-time decision, so it remains uncertain if Rose will take the court.
“It’s really not up to (Thibodeau). It’s up to me,” Rose said. “If I’m feeling good, I’m going to play. If I think that I need some more days, I’m going to take some more days. More than likely I’ll be out there.”
The Bulls are 15-7 on the season without Rose and 8-4 during the latest stretch.
“Our team has shown all year that we have great fight and we believe we can win with whoever we have out there,” Thibodeau said after Thursday’s 93-86 win over Boston.
The Knicks (28-27) return to New York after winning 96-80 in Orlando on Thursday to move to 4-2 since losing Amare Stoudemire (back) and Jeremy Lin (knee). While Stoudemire could be back in another week, Lin is likely done for the season.
New York has won 10 of 13 since coach Mike Woodson took over for Mike D’Antoni, whose tenure ended with a six-game losing streak. Defense has been the key to its recent success.
The Knicks are allowing an average of 83.3 points in their last 10 victories, compared to 107.2 in the past nine defeats.
On Thursday, New York held Dwight Howard to eight points and the Magic to 36 after halftime.
“It was a total team effort,” Woodson said of the defensive performance.
Carmelo Anthony has stepped up in the wake of the injuries to Stoudemire and Lin, averaging 27.7 points on 48.3 percent shooting in the last six games. The five-time All-Star averaged 14.0 points on 39.4 percent shooting in the previous seven.
While the Knicks have picked up their defensive intensity, the Bulls have been known for their defense all season under Thibodeau. They allow an average of 88.8 points to rank second in the league and are 29-0 when limiting teams to 91 or less.
Luol Deng may be Chicago’s best defensive player - he tied a season high with four steals Thursday - and he’s carried the offense lately with at least 20 points in four of his last five games. The Bulls are 16-3 when he scores at least 20.
Deng sat out Chicago’s last game against the Knicks on March 12, a 104-99 victory, because of a sprained wrist. Rose led the way with 32 points, seven assists and six rebounds, but hasn’t played since.
Rose also had 32 points and 13 assists at MSG on Feb. 2 in a 105-102 win. He’s averaged 27.9 points in the past seven meetings as Chicago has gone 5-2.
“We definitely want Derrick back out there, he helps, but even when Derrick comes back it’s not going to be easy,” said Joakim Noah, averaging 14.0 points in his last four games. “We have a long road ahead, a lot of games, a lot of battles. With Derrick back we have to play hungry. When we play hungry, we’re tough to beat.”