Bulls-Celtics Preview

The Associated Press

The Chicago Bulls managed to get along without Derrick Rose in their most recent game, but they surely hope to get back the reigning MVP for their next one.

After beating the league's worst team to conclude a hectic stretch, the Bulls will try to earn a rare road win over the Boston Celtics on Friday night.

With Rose hampered by a sprained big left toe before Wednesday's game, Chicago (10-2) opted to have him sit out as the team played its third game in three nights and hosted a Washington team with the NBA's worst record.

With backup point guard C.J. Watson (elbow) also out, John Lucas III got his first career start in place of Rose and scored a career-high 25 points in a 78-64 victory. He also had personal bests of eight rebounds and eight assists, helping the Bulls complete a three-day, three-game sweep.

"Obviously, we like it better when Derrick plays, but we feel we have a lot of confidence," swingman Kyle Korver told the team's website. "We've got a lot of guys who can step in and play. We've got a pretty rugged group."

Following a day of rest and with a seemingly tougher matchup Friday, the Bulls are looking for a quick return from Rose. That possibility will be contingent upon the pain in his toe subsiding, coach Tom Thibodeau said Wednesday.

"He's gotten a lot of treatment. He usually responds very well to treatment," Thibodeau said.

Rose has averaged 28.6 points over his past five games against Boston and scored 30 or more in each of the final two meetings last season as the Bulls won both. However, those two games came in Chicago after the Bulls had lost both visits to Boston, where the Celtics have won 10 of the past 12 meetings - including playoffs.

With the status of Rose and Richard Hamilton (groin) uncertain, Boston (4-5) is certainly the healthier team but off to a much more inconsistent start.

The Celtics have dropped consecutive games - both at home - since winning four in a row. That win streak followed the franchise's first 0-3 start since 2006-07.

While fatigue could have played a factor during an 87-74 loss to Indiana last Friday, Boston got four days off before a 90-85 loss to Dallas on Wednesday.

The Celtics again got off to a slow start as they scored 15 points in the first quarter, one shy of their fewest in that period this season. They had 25 points in the first half against the Pacers, their eighth game in 13 days.

Boston still managed to tie Wednesday's game with 25 seconds left, but Rajon Rondo turned the ball over following the Mavericks' go-ahead basket with 5.1 to go.

Rondo scored 24 points, and coach Doc Rivers said he needs to keep performing at that kind of level offensively with some of his other stars struggling for consistency.

Paul Pierce has 17 points over the past two games after scoring 45 in his previous two, and Ray Allen was held to a season-low nine points Wednesday.

"This is his (Rondo's) team right now, until everybody else gets it going," Rivers said. "We need him to be aggressive. We need to be a scorer. And attack. That's a change, but that's what it is right now until everybody else gets it going, because they are not."

Rondo has only averaged 9.2 points in his last five matchups with the Bulls.

Joakim Noah has double-doubles in his last four visits to Boston but has been struggling, averaging 4.2 points on 30.4 percent shooting in his last five games. He needed his sore left thumb taped in the first half Wednesday and played seven minutes in the second half, none in the fourth quarter.

Carlos Boozer also was benched for the final period and finished with a season-low four points after scoring seven in Tuesday's win at Minnesota.

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