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Wounded Bulls limping to finish line

3/17/2010

MEMPHIS -- Before Tuesday night's game, I asked Vinny Del Negro to compare his team's upcoming contest against the Grizzlies to an NCAA Tournament game.

Playing without Derrick Rose (sprained wrist), Luol Deng (calf strain) Joakim Noah (plantar fasciitis) and Kirk Hinrich (suspension), the Bulls looked every bit like a low seed trying to swing an upset against a higher one.

"I don't know what the seedings [would be]," he said. "All I know is that we got pro players and we have to come out and play like pros. We've prepared the right way, now it's a matter of going out and executing. Anything is possible in this league. I have confidence in my guys. I thought they had a good shootaround this morning. Now, we have to go out and execute during the game."

The problem for Del Negro was that his team wasn't really able to do that because they really haven't played together at all this season. Like most NCAA teams trying for an upset bid, they played hard until the end, but, ultimately they fell short 104-97 -- the team's eighth loss in a row.

"We had too many turnovers," Del Negro said. "We cut it to four, we couldn't convert. We had a couple stops. We didn't value the possession of the basketball well enough and just turned it over too much. It's frustrating because you don't even get a shot at the basket. We had some costly turnovers and that was unfortunate."

The sad part for the Bulls is that if they hadn't made 19 turnovers, especially several crucial ones late in the game, the team had a decent chance at pulling off the type of BracketBuster that underdogs across the country will be hoping for this weekend.

"We got to take care of the ball," Bulls point guard Acie Law said. "We put ourselves in position to win. I think we hurt [ourselves] down the stretch. We were down 25 at one point and then we fight all the way to get back in the game. Then we kill ourselves with turnovers. I had a couple. [Jannero Pargo] had a couple. Missed some open shots. If we take care of the ball, value the basketball down the stretch, we should be fine."

While Law's positive attitude is commendable, in truth, the only thing that is going to make the Bulls fine once again is the return of Rose, Hinrich, Deng and Noah to the lineup.

To that point, Rose sounds like he wants to play on Wednesday, but it sounds as if the organization is going to sit him for at least one more game and allow his sprained wrist a little more time to heal. Hinrich will definitely be back against the Mavericks because his suspension will have ended. Deng doesn't sound (or look) as if he'll be back until at least this weekend, maybe longer. And Noah -- well no one is quite sure when he will return. He was doing more exercises after the shootaround on Tuesday morning than I've seen him do in the past month, but as Del Negro has noted several times, Noah's conditioning will be far behind if and when he does return.

That means that probably for at least one more night, and likely several more, the Bulls are going to be continually lacking in the talent department. That also means that a starting lineup featuring Jannero Pargo, Flip Murray, Acie Law, Taj Gibson and Brad Miller is something that Bulls fans will have to get used to for a little while longer.

"Hey, a lot of guys haven't played for a while, or that long, or even in practice with everything going on with us," Del Negro said. "I was pleased with the effort. You're always disappointed with this outcome, but we'll just try to get guys healthy ..."

Until the Bulls do get healthy there's no telling just how long this losing streak can go.

Johnson a no-show in starting lineup: James Johnson has made a few spot starts at times this season and was scheduled to make another one on Tuesday night, but was replaced in the starting lineup by Acie Law as punishment for arriving late to Monday morning's practice.

Rose update: Rose was asked yet again if he will be back playing on the floor Wednesday night in Dallas after sitting out the past two games because of a sprained wrist.

"I'm trying, but we'll have to see [Wednesday]," he said.

Random sighting of the night: Leigh Anne Tuohy, (the woman actress Sandra Bullock played in The Blind Side) was firing t-shirts into the crowd during a break in the fourth quarter.