The Chicago Bulls hope to take the pressure off Derrick Rose and his ailing back by monitoring his minutes.
It could be a good sign that they didn’t even need him to defeat the Charlotte Bobcats last month.
Rose and the Bulls look to win their fifth straight Friday night when they visit the league-worst Bobcats, who are trying to avoid matching the longest losing streak in franchise history.
Most sports books monitored by the SportsOptions odds product opened the Bulls as hefty 11-point road favorites.
Chicago improved to 5-2 on its nine-game road trip with a 90-67 win in New Orleans on Wednesday, holding the Hornets to 37.3 percent shooting.
It was the Bulls’ third straight victory by at least 20 points, all against teams with losing records while allowing 90 or fewer.
The easy win allowed Rose, who left the previous game with back spasms, to sit out the fourth quarter. He finished with six points, six assists and five rebounds in 22 minutes.
“The back was kind of tight,” Rose said. “(Coach Tom Thibodeau) did a great job of managing my minutes when he saw we had the game put away.”
The reigning league MVP recently returned after missing four games due to a sprained left big toe. He played less than 11 minutes in Monday’s 108-87 win over New Jersey.
“Give D-Rose a lot of credit, man. He’s been playing through it for a while,” said Carlos Boozer, who led the team with 18 points Wednesday. “Gutsy, gutsy dude, played through it again and then (backup) C.J. (Watson) came in and played great. … I thought everybody from one through the whole team did a great job.”
The Bulls (22-6), who will close the road trip against streaking Boston team on Sunday, hope to make it another early night for Rose on Friday.
Rose wasn’t the only one who missed Chicago’s 95-89 win over Charlotte on Jan. 21 with an injury, as Joakim Noah and reserves Taj Gibson and John Lucas sat out. Boozer scored 23 points while Luol Deng had 22.
The Bobcats (3-22), who have lost 12 in a row, could have a tough time trying to stop even a less-than-healthy Rose given their own injury issues.
Charlotte is coming off a 94-84 loss at Boston on Tuesday to finish a four-game road trip. After the game was close early, the Celtics opened the fourth quarter on a 13-2 run to take an 82-64 lead from which the Bobcats never recovered.
Reggie Williams scored 21 points and reserve Derrick Brown had 20, hitting all 10 field-goal attempts. Williams was making his second straight start in place of the injured Gerald Henderson, who is out two to four weeks with a right hamstring strain.
Charlotte is also without starting point guard D.J. Augustin, who has missed eight straight games with a toe injury.
The Bobcats, who averaged 78.5 points and shot 38.7 percent during the road trip, would match the franchise’s longest losing streak – set Jan. 11-Feb. 1, 2006 – with a loss Friday.
“When you have to play your main guys for as long as we do, it gets kind of tough,” coach Paul Silas said. “We’ve just got to keep battling.”
The Bobcats, who are 2-8 at home, have lost three straight to the Bulls.