Bulls-Hornets Preview

The Associated Press

Despite leaving Chicago's latest victory in the first half with a sore back, Derrick Rose isn't planning on sitting out Wednesday night's matchup against the New Orleans Hornets.

Although the determined Rose doesn't want to miss a game, the Eastern Conference-leading Bulls seem like they could get by without him against an inferior Hornets team that could be without its top two scorers again.

Rose played 11 minutes and had four points and no assists in Monday's easy 108-87 win at New Jersey. He came out for good with 2:54 remaining in the second quarter, and the outcome was already in little doubt with Chicago (21-6) leading 56-31.

"I feel all right, just back spasms," said Rose, who averages team highs of 22.7 points and 7.9 assists. "It's nothing to worry about. (Tuesday) we have a day off and I'll get treatment. I'll get a massage and hopefully I can play the next game."

Even if he's unable to play, it doesn't seem like Chicago would be hurting. The Bulls, winners of three straight overall, won four of five earlier this season while the reigning league MVP was out with a sprained left big toe.

Without Rose on Monday, Chicago didn't miss a beat as it opened up a 32-point lead a few minutes after halftime. Carlos Boozer stepped up with 24 points on 9-of-13 shooting and Luol Deng, playing in his second game after sitting out seven with a sprained left wrist, finished with 19 points.

C.J. Watson again proved capable of stepping in for Rose, finishing with 14 points and a season-high 11 assists. He made three starts for Rose last month, averaging 16.3 points on 51.6 percent shooting and 7.0 assists.

While the Bulls seem to have enough firepower to withstand a minor injury to their superstar, facing the woeful Hornets (4-21) probably won't hurt.

New Orleans, which has lost 21 of 23 since winning its first two, has one of the league's lowest-scoring offenses at 88.0 points per game, and could be without Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry.

Jack, averaging a team-best 15.8 points, has missed the last three games with a sore left knee but is nearing a return. Landry, averaging 11.5 points, is definitely out after suffering an MCL sprain in his left knee Saturday.

Eric Gordon remains out with a right knee bruise.

Those absences don't bode well against a Chicago team with one of the league's top scoring defenses at 88.4 points per game. The Bulls held the Hornets to an average of 82.5 points in the two meetings last season and have won six straight in the series since a 108-97 loss March 17, 2008, three months before they made Rose the first pick of the NBA draft.

Despite their injuries, the Hornets got off to a fast start Monday against Sacramento, leading by 18 late in the first half. New Orleans took a nine-point advantage into the final period but fell apart again, misfiring on 17 of 23 fourth-quarter shots and losing 100-92.

The Hornets have dropped six straight games despite leading at the half in the last four.

"Well, that's the story of our season so far. Play well in the first and then we do let it go in the second half," swingman Trevor Ariza said. "Nobody likes to lose. It's just getting old."

One bright spot for New Orleans has been the play of Greivis Vasquez, who matched a season best with 20 points Monday. He has started the last three games for the Hornets, averaging 16.7 points on 51.4 percent shooting and 7.7 assists.

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