LIVE: Bulls look for 2-0 start to road trip on CSN

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LIVE: Bulls look for 2-0 start to road trip on CSN

Monday, Feb. 28, 2011
11:05 a.m.
Associated Press

With each game Joakim Noah plays, the Chicago Bulls are feeling more comfortable and confident.

Noah and his teammates appear to have one more game to fine-tune their chemistry before the schedule becomes much tougher.

After opening an important five-game road trip with a win, the Central Division-leading Bulls look to hand the lowly Washington Wizards a 15th loss in 17 games when they meet Monday night.

In his third game back following right thumb surgery that kept him sidelined for two months, Noah had eight points and 17 rebounds - including nine on the offensive end - in Saturday's 83-75 win over Milwaukee.

"The more I'm out on the court, the better I feel and the more energy I have," said Noah, who is averaging 13.7 rebounds in the last three games. "The longer we get to play together, I think we are going to find out how good we can be as a team."

Chicago (40-17), which is in a tight race with Boston and Miami for the best record in the Eastern Conference, looks like a title contender when healthy, winning nine of 12 games when Noah, Derrick Rose and Carlos Boozer are all on the court.

"We are getting into a nice rhythm now that everyone is back," Rose said. "Noah has come back and really helped us. I think we can get nothing but better as the season goes along."

The Bulls are going to have several opportunities to test themselves against some of the better teams in the East during this road trip. After this game, they visit Atlanta on Wednesday, then play Orlando on Friday before wrapping up the trip in Miami on Sunday.

Before looking too far ahead, Chicago needs to focus on facing a Wizards team that nearly beat one of the league's best its last time out.

Washington (15-43), an NBA-worst 2-14 since Jan. 24, gave Dallas a scare Saturday, storming back from nine points down with four minutes to play to tie the score at 97 on Jordan Crawford's jumper with 1:36 left. The Wizards were unable to pull ahead, though, missing five of their next six shots and losing 105-99.

John Wall keyed the comeback, scoring eight of his 24 points in the final three minutes, but also missed two free throws that cost Washington a chance for the upset. As a team, the Wizards missed 10 of 16 from the foul line.

"We shoot free throws - we win the game," coach Flip Saunders said.

Washington's offense is showing some signs of life, averaging 100.5 points in its four games since the All-Star break with Wall scoring at least 21 in each of the last three, but it could have trouble against Chicago's stout defense.

The Bulls, who allow an average of 92.5 points, limited the Bucks to 38.2 percent shooting and improved to 34-1 when allowing 95 points or fewer. This doesn't bode well for the Wizards, considering they're 3-27 when failing to score more than 95.

Chicago has won the two meetings with Washington this season, and seven of nine in the series since the start of the 2008-09 season.

The Bulls beat the Wizards at the United Center 103-96 on Nov. 13, as Rose had 24 points and Noah added 21 points and nine boards while Boozer was out. They won in Washington 87-80 on Dec. 22 behind Boozer's 30 points and Rose's 25, with Noah sidelined.

Copyright 2010 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Rajon Rondo declares himself out for Bulls-Celtics Game 5

Rajon Rondo declares himself out for Bulls-Celtics Game 5

BOSTON — Rajon Rondo is out tonight for Game 5 of the Bulls’ series against the Boston Celtics and if he is to be believed, an appearance in Game 6 or 7 doesn’t seem likely because “my finger is broken.”

If he is to be believed.

Rondo threw cold water on the report that he had a “secret workout” in the attempt to get back on the floor for Game 5 at TD Garden, saying he went to work on his floaters because he airballed one in practice Tuesday.

“No I’m not playing. I got an X-ray yesterday. The thumb is still the same. It’s still broke,” Rondo said. “I knew last week it wasn’t going to be fixed in a week. My finger is broken.”

Rondo being without a cast on his right hand was due to the wrist injury he suffered in the last remaining games of the regular season, when he tore ligaments and missed a few games.

Knowing his history of playing on a torn ACL and injured forearm, the expectation was that Rondo could find a way to play through the pain — which makes his words hard to completely take a face value, given the hard sell he presented to reporters.

“My thumb is the same as it was last week,” Rondo said. “I think I’m Wolverine but it hasn’t healed that quickly yet.”

As he reiterated time and time again, “my thumb is broken,” a statement he made almost incredulously considering the thought he could come back in a relatively quick time considering this injury occurred in Game 2.

And while the thumb is no longer discolored and looks to be close to its usual form, he still has to use a big cast on it and even when he practiced yesterday with the team he was using a lot of his left hand, according to people who were in attendance.

“Nothing. I can still dribble without it,” Rondo said. “Basic dribbling. But it’s still a big part of my game. I have a big cast on it while I’m playing so it’s not really effective.”

If he does decide to get out there in a clinching Game 6, he could risk further injury to his thumb, and due to the break occurring on the tip of his thumb, he can’t numb it up with a shot or a general painkiller.

He would have to have a wrap on it, and given the high stakes it would be a target for the Celtics players to slap at it to further injure it.

“I’m not worried about somebody else slapping it,” Rondo said. “I’m worried about the way I play — diving on the floor, trying to get my hand in on loose balls. I play on instincts. I can’t go in there with my finger tucked and trying to steal the ball. The game doesn’t work like that.”

“My finger is broke. I can’t go out there without anything. The slightest fall on the floor might further damage it. If I was to go out Game 7, 8, 9, I would probably have a wrap. I finished the game. My finger was broke in the third quarter.

“I can affect the game in different ways. But obviously the scouting report would be different, how they would play me. I might get hacked a couple times on the right side of my body. It could affect the entire hand. If I play, that won’t be my concern.”

Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg seemed pretty amazed at the speculation that lasted all of 10 hours as the possibility of Rondo playing began to grow by the hour, but still calls it a “longshot”.

“He still has a broken bone in his thumb. He’s got a significant amount of swelling and he’s got a lot of soreness. So he’s out tonight,” Hoiberg said. “He is trying to increase his activity just in case by doing some extra running, and [Tuesday] was actually the first day he touched a ball with his right hand, so again, like I said [Tuesday[, it is a longshot.”

Fast Break Morning Update: White Sox crush Royals; Cubs shutout Pirates; Bulls battle Celtics tonight on CSN

Fast Break Morning Update: White Sox crush Royals; Cubs shutout Pirates; Bulls battle Celtics tonight on CSN

Here are some of the top Chicago sports stories from Tuesday: 

Five Things To Watch: Bulls battle Celtics in pivotal Game 5 on CSN

Preview: Cubs aim for sweep tonight on CSN

Three more hits for Leury Garcia as White Sox pound Royals

Kyle Hendricks outduels Gerrit Cole in Cubs win

Rajon Rondo return seems possible for Game 5

Clemson's Deshaun Watson is the one situation where a Bears reach has epic upside

Blackhawks make another change, fire Rockford coach Ted Dent

NBA Buzz: Time for Fred Hoiberg to make adjustments for the Bulls

Duke chatter unlikely to stop, but newly extended Chris Collins wants to be at Northwestern: 'There's no reason for me to look elsewhere'

Teammates see Mike Glennon taking command of Bears offense