The Chicago Bulls will try to end a two-game losing streak Friday night when they welcome the Utah Jazz to the United Center.
Both of Chicago's recent setbacks came on the road, and they came against good teams, especially at home. The Bulls fell to the Indiana Pacers on Sunday, then the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday night.
The Bulls hung with the Pacers, who lead them by four games in the Central Division, but the Spurs buried the Bulls, especially in the second half. Chicago took a five-point lead into the locker room against San Antonio, but the Spurs outscored them 54-31 over the final two frames.
"You can't hold on to the ball against them," head coach Tom Thibodeau said. "The ball has got to move side-to-side. They're too good defensively. They're active, disciplined and they made it tough. In the first half, the ball moved side-to-side and in the second half, it didn't. We took some poor shots."
Marco Belinelli led the Bulls with 21 points, while Luol Deng added 19. Marcus Teague had 11 off the bench and Carlos Boozer managed 10. Joakim Noah only scored eight, but pulled down 13 rebounds.
It's been a struggle for the Bulls to be healthy and they were short-handed against the Spurs. Former MVP Derrick Rose is still sidelined after his ACL tear in last season's playoffs and no return date is on the horizon. Taj Gibson, Kirk Hinrich and Rip Hamilton all sat in San Antonio with various injuries and all three are listed as day-to-day.
"We're super shorthanded," said Boozer. "If we have our full lineup in the game it's different. You've got to remember we are playing without three of out best players. Not to make any excuses, but facts are facts. The reality is what it is."
Boozer's former team, the Jazz, come to town for their third in a four-game road swing. They are 0-2 thus far, although they've had a chance to win both contests.
The Jazz lost to the Milwaukee Bucks 109-108 in overtime on Monday, then let a win get away Wednesday in Cleveland. The Cavs overcame a double-digit deficit in the fourth quarter to trump the Jazz, 104-101.
With the Jazz down a point, Mo Williams, who returned to the lineup after thumb surgery, drove the paint and had a wide-open layup roll out of hoop.
"That was amazing. I don't think I've ever missed a layup, even in practice," Williams said. "I've shot a trillion layups in my life. I've never missed one like that, the way it went in and came out. It was a normal layup. I'm dumbfounded."
The Jazz are dumbfounded. They've dropped five of their last six and fell to eighth in the Western Conference. The Los Angeles Lakers are only 1 1/2 games behind the Jazz with the stretch run to come.
Al Jefferson sat for the Jazz against the Cavs with an ankle sprain. He is listed as a game-time decision for the Bulls game.
The Bulls have won four in a row against Utah and four of their last five at home in this series.