Bulls, Nets collide in Chicago

Even if reigning MVP Derrick Rose is unable to go today for the Chicago Bulls, the current Central Division leaders still have a decent shot at topping the New Jersey Nets at the United Center.

Rose has missed four straight games because of a nagging lower back issue and will most likely be a game-time decision for Saturday. The Bulls are 7-2 without their dynamic floor general and recorded an 89-80 victory versus Boston on Thursday in the second installment of a six-game homestand. Carlos Boozer led the charge with 23 points, 15 rebounds and five assists, while Luol Deng provided 23 points and 10 assists for the Bulls, who have won seven of eight games and improved to 2-0 on the residency.

"We do a good job of passing to each other out there every night," Boozer said after helping Chicago to an 11-1 home mark. "Everyone chips in here and it's been a lot of fun this season."

C.J. Watson has been filling in for Rose at the point and recorded 11 points. Joakim Noah played a big role in the win over the Celtics, pouring in 15 points and a game-best 16 rebounds. Chicago used a 20-6 run to keep Boston at bay. Rose has increased his activity during workouts and will be closely monitored.

"Derrick did some shooting and is feeling better," Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau told the Chicago Tribune. "We'll see how he is (Saturday.) We watched film, did very little drill work, some shooting and ran through some things. It wasn't a regular practice. But this is the first time he's done more activity."

The Bulls, who are six games ahead of Indiana for the Central lead, will also welcome the Hawks, Bucks and Hornets to the Second City on this homestand. They are unbeaten in three straight outings at the United Center. Bulls guard Richard Hamilton (groin/thigh) is still out indefinitely and Thibodeau said the UConn product is "making good progress."

New Jersey hopes to halt an eight-game slide tonight and has also dropped four in a row away from the Garden State.

In Thursday's 93-88 setback at Indiana, Deron Williams led New Jersey with 29 points and Kris Humphries recorded 24 and 10 rebounds. MarShon Brooks netted 14 points for the Nets, who have just one win over their last 11 contests.

"We all love playing basketball," said Humphries. "We are all trying to get better. We are not happy with this."

The Nets, currently last in the Atlantic Division, shot a decent 46.7 percent from the floor, but made only 4-of-17 attempts from beyond the arc. Indiana scored 18 points off 20 New Jersey turnovers and was led by Danny Granger's game-best 32 points. The Pacers have won 10 in a row over the Nets, their longest active streak against any opponent

New Jersey is just 6-16 against the Eastern Conference this season and 5-12 in games played on enemy hardwood. The last time the Nets lost eight in a row was Nov. 30-Dec. 14, 2010 and they haven't suffered a nine-game slide since an 11- game skid from Jan. 2-23, 2010.

Nets center Brook Lopez hasn't played all season because of a stress fracture in his right foot that required surgery. Lopez is questionable versus the Bulls and averaged 20.4 points, 6.0 rebounds and 1.6 assists last season.

Chicago has beaten New Jersey twice already this season -- once at home and on the road -- and is unbeaten in the last four meetings. The Bulls have won 10 of the last 14 matchups between the teams. New Jersey has lost four straight, eight of nine and 10 of its last 12 trips to the Second City.