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Bobcats-Bulls Preview

AP - Sports

Coach Tom Thibodeau is not about to rush injured star Derrick Rose back on the court.

Based on the way the Bulls have played without him the last two games, it might not matter if the reigning MVP is on the floor or not.

While Rose faces the possibility of missing his fourth straight game, the Bulls try for a third straight victory to remain undefeated at home Saturday night against the lowly Charlotte Bobcats.

Rose's sprained big toe is doing better, but Thibodeau will not say exactly when his star guard will return.

"Each day he's moving in the right direction,'' Thibodeau said, "and when he's ready to go, he'll go. He doesn't feel he's ready to go yet."

Though Rose leads the team averaging 20.8 points and 8.7 assists per game, the NBA-leading Bulls (14-3) have played well without him this week.

After falling 102-86 at Memphis on Monday in its first game without Rose, Chicago looked dominant during a 118-97 win over Phoenix the next night and in a 114-75 road rout of Cleveland on Friday.

"Here's the thing about our team,'' Thibodeau said. "We have more than enough to win with. If he's hurt and he's injured, he doesn't play. If he can tolerate the pain and feels good enough then he'll play. That's the way it is. This is the NBA.''

Carlos Boozer has stepped up in Rose's absence, scoring a season-high 31 points against the Suns then adding 19 with 14 rebounds at Cleveland.

C.J. Watson, Rose's replacement, has averaged 18.3 points on 17-of-30 shooting in the last three games after missing nine with an elbow injury.

Luol Deng had 21 on Friday to lead the Bulls, who had five players score in double figures, held the Cavaliers to 30.3 percent shooting and recorded a franchise-high 16 blocks.

"Deepest team I've ever played on, 100 percent,'' Boozer said. "Most teams go to their bench and hold their own. We go to our bench and they can open the lead.''

Deng had 24 points in a 106-94 home win over Charlotte on Feb. 15.

Looking to start 7-0 at the United Center for the first time since 1996-97, Chicago has held opponents to 71.8 points on 36.7 percent shooting at home this season.

The Bulls have won two in a row and six of the last nine overall against Charlotte (3-12), which has averaged 92.5 points while going 3-10 all-time at the United Center.

The Bobcats have averaged 83.5 points on 40.5 percent shooting during their current four-game road skid overall.

Charlotte was competitive but still lost 96-89 at Orlando on Tuesday to drop to 1-6 on the road. Gerald Henderson scored 22 points and rookie Bismack Biyombo added season highs with 11 and 10 boards for the Bobcats, who led by three at the half and got within a basket late in the fourth quarter before losing for the eighth time in nine contests.

"We are playing better,'' Henderson said. "I think it is at the end of games that we have to lock down and execute. I think we will be better off with experience and kind of have to learn to win.''

Henderson is averaging 21.7 points on 22-of-38 shooting in the last three games. He's made 14 of 24 shots while totaling 42 points in the last two versus Chicago.

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