Bucks-Bulls Preview

The Associated Press

Derrick Rose's back tightened when the Chicago Bulls blew out the Milwaukee Bucks earlier this month, something he didn't think was serious but would ultimately turn into an issue.

It didn't seem like much of a problem upon his return.

That's certainly bad news for the struggling Bucks, who visit the United Center on Wednesday night looking to avoid a seventh consecutive loss to the Bulls.

Rose spearheaded a 113-90 rout at the Bradley Center on Feb. 4, totaling 26 points and 13 assists as Chicago (26-8) went a season-best 14 of 30 from 3-point range.

The reigning MVP said his back tightened in the second quarter, though, and he was limited to a total of 33 minutes and 10 points in the next two games before sitting out the following five.

A little rest seemed to pay off. Rose returned Monday afternoon against Atlanta, scoring a game-high 23 points as Chicago jumped out to an 18-point lead after one quarter en route to a 90-79 victory.

"Having (Rose) back just opens up everything," center Joakim Noah said. "He was very aggressive. When he's aggressive like that, it opens up everything for everybody, and it gives us a lot of confidence."

Rose hasn't been lacking in confidence against the Bucks (13-19) recently. He's averaged 30.0 points and 11.0 assists in the Bulls' three most recent victories in a six-game series winning streak.

Noah has been perhaps just as critical inside, averaging 12.3 points and 13.3 rebounds - 6.0 offensive - in the four contests he's played during that run. Chicago has outrebounded the Bucks by an average of 9.4 during the last five meetings.

That margin could be even more lopsided Wednesday. Drew Gooden, who has averaged 17.9 points and 7.3 rebounds since Andrew Bogut broke his ankle in late January, has missed the past three games with a sprained right wrist.

The Bucks already have one of the league's worst rebounding differentials at minus-3.22 while the Bulls' plus-5.06 is the NBA's best.

Milwaukee has given up 13.5 offensive boards per game since Bogut went down - third-worst in the league - and that's what cost the Bucks on Monday. Up 90-88 with 20 seconds left, they let Jameer Nelson grab an offensive rebound, leading to Ryan Anderson's decisive 3-pointer in Orlando's 93-90 win - Milwaukee's eighth loss in 11 games.

"We were one rebound away from probably winning the game and just couldn't get (it)," coach Scott Skiles said.

Gooden is expected to seek a second opinion on his wrist this week, but Ersan Ilyasova seems determined to make up for his absence. Ilyasova has averaged 19.3 points and 16.7 rebounds while moving into Gooden's place in the starting lineup.

Even if Ilyasova can hold his own with Noah and Carlos Boozer, the Bucks seem unlikely to stop their skid against the Bulls without a big effort from Brandon Jennings.

The third-year point guard has rarely been up to the task versus Chicago. Even after scoring 25 in a 107-100 loss at the United Center last month, Jennings has averaged just 9.8 points on 32.9 percent shooting in his last six games against the Bulls.

Milwaukee is 9-7 when Jennings scores at least 20 points this season and 4-12 when he has 19 or fewer.