Though still very early, it appears the Chicago Bulls will be able to hold their own while Derrick Rose works his way back from injury.
Looking to improve to 3-0 for the first time in 16 seasons, Chicago tries to extend its winning streak over injury-plagued New Orleans to nine games Saturday night at the United Center.
The Bulls (2-0) have outscored the Hornets (1-1) by an average of 11.1 points during their run in this series, limiting them to 39.4 percent from the field. Chicago, though, needed 32 points from Rose to pull out a 99-95 victory in the last matchup Feb. 28.
The Bulls, who lost Rose to a torn left ACL during Game 1 of a first-round playoff loss to Philadelphia last season, aren't certain when he'll be able to return. If its first two games are any indication, however, coach Tom Thibodeau's team figures to be OK without the 2010-11 league MVP.
After beating Sacramento 93-87 in Wednesday's season opener, Chicago cruised to a 115-86 win at Cleveland on Friday. Richard Hamilton and Carlos Boozer each scored 19 points for the Bulls, who took a 32-16 lead into the second quarter and never looked back.
"It was awesome. It felt good. Everyone was catching the ball in their sweet spots," said Hamilton, who also scored 19 against the Kings. "In the third quarter, I decided to get a little more aggressive. Some dude behind me called me Old Man River, so I had to show him how it's done."
The Bulls haven't won their first three games since opening a franchise-best 12-0 in 1996-97, when they claimed the fifth of their six championships.
The Hornets, meanwhile, escaped with their first win of the season Friday, 88-86 over Utah. After posting eight points and a career-high 13 assists during Wednesday's 99-95 loss to San Antonio, Greivis Vasquez finished with 13 and 10, respectively, and scored the game-winning basket with 1.3 seconds to go.
"He is playing tremendous and he has got his confidence back and we'll keep going back to him," forward Jason Smith said of Vasquez.
Friday's win, though, appears to have come at a cost. Davis took an inadvertent elbow to the temple in the second quarter and was diagnosed with a mild concussion.
The No. 1 overall selection in this year's draft, who scored 21 points against the Spurs, recorded eight, six rebounds and two blocks before exiting Friday. He will not accompany the team to Chicago and is listed as day to day.
The Hornets are also dealing with Gordon's absence. Gordon, who played in just nine games in 2011-12 and missed the entire preseason, has yet to take the court due to a right knee injury.
Coach Monty Williams would not confirm a report that Gordon would miss 4-to-6 weeks.
"I know things haven't been going as well as hoped," Gordon said. "It's tough as a player to go through these things. You're looking for the best from yourself, and you look forward to doing what is best for the team. As a player, I definitely look forward to helping this franchise and always look out for the best for this team. It has been very frustrating not to be able to play."
Bulls reserve Marco Belinelli, who spent the previous two seasons with New Orleans, faces his former team for the first time.
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