Bulls begin long road trek in San Antonio

( - Had Derrick Rose been healthy, Wednesday's matchup between the Chicago Bulls and San Antonio Spurs could be labeled as a possible NBA Finals preview.

However, Rose is expected to miss the remainder of the season after another knee surgery and right now the Bulls are only the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference.

San Antonio may have lost two in a row and four of its last six games, but is still only 2 1/2 games behind Oklahoma City for the West's top spot. The Spurs' two-game slide is a season high and they haven't suffered three straight losses since closing out the 2012-13 regular season 0-3.

In Tuesday's 97-90 road loss to the Southwest-rival Houston Rockets, Dwight Howard powered his way to 23 points and 16 rebounds, while San Antonio was led by Boris Diaw's 22 points and 11 rebounds. Tim Duncan posted a double-double of 12 points and 14 rebounds, Tony Parker scored 17 points and Manu Ginobili added nine before suffering a hamstring injury.

Houston had a 55-39 advantage on the glass and recorded 19 offensive rebounds to San Antonio's 13.

"I thought, defensively, we did a pretty decent job of controlling the game for a long time, and then it just got away from us," Duncan said.

Duncan has recorded 785 career double-doubles (points-rebounds), tying him with Bill Russell for the sixth most in NBA history.

The Spurs went 1-2 on their road trip and dropped a 113-101 decision at Miami on Sunday in a rematch of last season's NBA Finals. They had scored 100 or more points in 15 straight games, the longest stretch under head coach Gregg Popovich, but are still averaging 104.4 ppg this season. San Antonio is 28-8 when scoring 100 or more points this season.

San Antonio, which is 17-7 as the host and will also entertain Sacramento on Saturday, is one of the top defensive teams in the league, holding opponents to 96.9 ppg this season.

Meanwhile, Ginobili is questionable Wednesday for a Spurs teams that is already without key contributors Kawhi Leonard (finger), Danny Green (finger) and Tiago Splitter (shoulder).

Chicago is second-to-last in scoring at 92.8 ppg, but is second overall in opponents' scoring at 92.9 ppg.

The Bulls will begin another lengthy road trip Wednesday, as they start a six- game western tour against San Antonio, New Orleans, Sacramento, Phoenix, Golden State and the Los Angeles Lakers.

Chicago went 1-5 on its road trip back in late November, but is 6-1 in its last seven road games. The Bulls have a 9-12 record on the road this season.

January has been a good month for the Bulls (10-4), but they have lost two of three games, including Monday's 95-86 setback versus the Minnesota Timberwolves. Carlos Boozer posted 20 points and 14 rebounds, D.J. Augustin added 19 and Jimmy Butler posted 16 points for Chicago, which shot just 37.6 percent for the game and was without Joakim Noah (illness).

"It was a tough game. They came out, pushed the ball and scored on us. They we're getting easy baskets and it kind of killed us," Augustin said.

Noah is questionable Wednesday and has grabbed at least 10 rebounds in a career-high 16 straight games. He is averaging 14.0 rebounds per game in that span. Meanwhile, Augustin is posting an average of 20.3 points in his past eight contests.

The Bulls lost both meetings with San Antonio last season and are only 3-11 in the past 14 encounters in the Alamo City.