Surging Bulls host Chris Paul-less Hornets

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Surging Bulls host Chris Paul-less Hornets

Monday, March 7, 2011
10:23 a.m.

Associated Press

(AP) -- Even at close to full strength, New Orleans likely would have a hard time beating the surging Chicago Bulls. Minus All-Star guard Chris Paul, that challenge becomes much more difficult.

After a frightening injury, the Hornets will be without Paul on Monday night when they try to avoid a sixth consecutive loss to the Bulls, who are seeking their ninth straight home win.

Paul suffered a concussion and left the court on a stretcher in the third quarter of Sunday's 96-81 victory at Cleveland. Averaging 15.9 points and 9.6 assists, Paul hit his forehead on the shoulder of Cleveland's Ramon Sessions while trying to retrieve a loose ball.

WATCH: Top 5 Bulls Plays of Last Week

Paul, who stayed on the floor as trainers from both teams attended to him, moved his legs and feet and was responsive on his way to the hospital. He rejoined the Hornets in Cleveland and accompanied them on their flight to Chicago.

"He is in good spirits, talking and cracking jokes in the background," Hornets coach Monty Williams said. "He was ready to get out of the hospital, as most of us hate being in hospitals."

The Hornets (37-28), who have won two in a row since losing 12 of 16, likely can't afford to be without the four-time All-Star for long, especially with starting swingman Trevor Ariza nursing a strained groin and in danger of missing a third straight game.

New Orleans forward David West is back healthy. He scored 23 points Sunday, two nights after he sprained his ankle during a 98-91 victory at Memphis.

West hasn't been impressive in seven career games at Chicago, averaging 10.6 points on 39.7 percent shooting. Without Paul or Ariza, West will need plenty of help against a Chicago team that is coming off a 4-1 road trip.

Two days after beating a tired Orlando club 89-81, the Bulls (43-18) swept their three-game season series against Miami with an 87-86 victory Sunday. In doing so, Chicago passed the Heat for second place in the Eastern Conference.

WATCH: Rose pleased with Bulls' team effort vs. Heat

"We're just taking it for what it is," said All-Star Derrick Rose, who scored 27 points. "We're just trying to win games, play hard and play aggressive on both ends."

The Bulls did just that on their recent road trip, especially on the defensive end, where they gave up 80.4 points per game.

"Our defense is really improving," forward Joakim Noah said. "We're just trying to play the best we can. I think we still have a long way to go and we can get a lot better. That's what is so exciting about this team."

It would seem hard for the Bulls to get much better at the United Center, where they are 26-4 and have won 16 of 17. Chicago has not won nine straight at home since a 10-game run Feb. 28-April 11, 1998, during its last championship season.

New Orleans has lost two straight at Chicago and four of its last five visits there, averaging 87.8 points in those meetings.

Rose had 23 points with six assists while Paul finished with 15 and six assists in the Bulls' 97-88 win at New Orleans on Feb. 12. Rose, however, has totaled 18 points on 9-of-29 shooting in two career home games versus the Hornets.

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Bulls: Could a knee injury have slowed Jimmy Butler in the fourth quarter against Celtics?

Bulls: Could a knee injury have slowed Jimmy Butler in the fourth quarter against Celtics?

As Jimmy Butler sat with his sweat-soaked jersey still attached to his body, Dwyane Wade yelled out that all the hot water was gone from the TD Garden showers, a fitting end to a miserable night.

Butler hadn't yet gone to the showers because electrodes were attached to his knees, but it was the left one that prevented him from being as aggressive as he should have been in the Bulls' 108-97 loss to the Celtics on Wednesday night.

Butler's 30-foot buzzer-beater to end the third quarter seemed to indicate a harbinger of things to come, giving the Bulls an 81-79 lead. A fourth-quarter explosion likely would have sent the Bulls back to Chicago with a 3-2 lead and a chance to clinch the series at home Friday night.

But he could only muster two shots and barely seemed to push off on his left foot—his lead foot, and it hampered what the Bulls could do late as he was their prime fourth-quarter performer.

He couldn't even go straight up on a jumper over the diminutive Isaiah Thomas without pump-faking, throwing off his rhythm. He wouldn't elaborate on the injury, although he said it happened during the second half of Game 4 on Sunday night when he collided with a Celtics player.

"I'm good. Everyone's a little nicked up; I'll be all right," Butler said in the locker room.

Going 6-for-15 overall, one would have thought Butler was conserving his energy, but he clearly didn't have his usual spunk. It was partly the reason Dwyane Wade took over more, with 26 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists, but having Butler around could have helped close a game that got away from them in a four-minute stretch where the Bulls lost their composure.

Wade has had to play through his share of injuries during his career, and although he wouldn't divulge whatever Butler was going through, it seemed as if they had a conversation about managing his body.

"We've talked about it. When you've had any limitations no matter what, at this time of year people are banged-up," Wade said. "It's expected. But we have to do a better job of putting him in different places on the basketball floor.

"I don't know exactly what he's going through or what he's feeling, but it's tough when you are, and you try to beat a guy from halfcourt to the rim, or three defenders. So we've got to a better job of finding areas for him to work without having to work so hard. That's on all of us."

Bulls Talk Podcast: Breaking down the Game 5 loss

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USA TODAY

Bulls Talk Podcast: Breaking down the Game 5 loss

Mark Schanowski, Kendall Gill and Will Perdue analyze Game 5 between the Bulls and Celtics, how the Bulls can correct their mistakes for Friday night and whether Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade have enough left in the tank to win two straight against the top seed in the Eastern Conference.