Bulls-Magic Preview

The Associated Press

Having the reigning NBA MVP sidelined is not the ideal situation for the Chicago Bulls, but they've been up to the challenge more often than not.

They may have to wait a little longer to get him back.

Derrick Rose may not accompany the team on its two-game road trip, which begins Monday night against the Orlando Magic.

Chicago (37-10) owns the league's best record and improved to 9-4 without Rose this season after an 89-80 win over Philadelphia on Saturday. Rose sat out his third straight game with a sore groin, and he also missed time with back and foot issues the last two months.

C.J. Watson, who is playing through a sore left ankle, started in place of Rose and scored a team-high 20 points, while Joakim Noah added 13 and 11 rebounds.

''That was a tough team we just beat so it gives us a lot of confidence, we just need to keep it going," Noah said. "We are playing without our MVP so we just need to keep getting better, keep improving."

The Bulls beat Miami on Wednesday then fell to Portland on Friday with Rose out, and coach Tom Thibodeau wasn't sure if his star guard would make the trip to Orlando and then Toronto on Wednesday. Reports say Saturday's home contest with the Raptors is a more realistic date for his return.

With or without Rose, Chicago has yet to lose consecutive games this season, and it has the same mentality whether or not he's in the lineup.

"We take losses personal. A lot of people have things to say at the end of the day, we take losing real bad and that shows great character,'' Noah said.

One such defeat came when Orlando ended the Bulls' eight-game winning streak with a 99-94 win March 8. Rose played but shot 6 for 22 and scored 17 points, while Dwight Howard scored 29 and grabbed 18 rebounds to help the Magic snap a four-game skid in the series.

Orlando (29-17), though, has lost two of three after falling 91-81 at Miami on Sunday, as Howard finished with 18 points and 11 rebounds.

After setting a season best for points allowed in an 86-70 win over New Jersey on Friday, the Magic allowed the Heat to shoot 45.9 percent and fell behind by as many as 13 points.

''Our effort defensively early in the game was not there,'' coach Stan Van Gundy said. ''We did not come to play. That's inexcusable particularly playing on the road against a team this good.''

With another tough challenge Monday, Orlando will need Howard to continue his solid play against the Bulls.

Howard is averaging 29.3 points and 14.5 rebounds in his last four games against Chicago and has 10 double-doubles in 12 career home contests versus the Bulls, who have won three straight meetings in Orlando.

Chicago won there 97-83 on Jan. 6 behind 20 points and 13 rebounds from Carlos Boozer and 21 points apiece from Rose and Luol Deng.

Howard had 28 points and 15 rebounds in that contest.

The Magic's last home victory in the series was a 111-82 win March 11, 2010.

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