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Wizards-Bulls Preview

Washington Wizards guard John Wall (2) shoots under pressure from Chicago Bulls forward Taj Gibson (22) during the second half in Game 4 of an opening-round NBA basketball playoff series in Washington, Sunday, April 27, 2014. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon) Photo:

Washington Wizards guard John Wall (2) shoots under pressure from Chicago Bulls forward Taj Gibson (22) during the second half in Game 4 of an opening-round NBA basketball playoff series in Washington, Sunday, April 27, 2014. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

The Chicago Bulls are having some trouble defending in the paint and hope to have a key player back who could help in that department.

Joakim Noah may return from a nine-game absence due to a shoulder injury Monday night when the Bulls seek a sixth straight home win as they meet the Washington Wizards.

Chicago (22-13) went 7-2 in this stretch without Noah, who suffered a left shoulder sprain in a 105-102 loss to lowly Brooklyn on Dec. 21. He took part in Sunday's practice and said he is ready to return.

"I'm confident in my shoulder being all right and I'm excited to get back onto the court," said Noah, who lost his starting job this season and is averaging a career-low 4.5 points.

The Bulls went 5-0 at home without him for their longest win streak there.

They are enduring some woes preventing interior baskets, conceding 66 points in the paint in Saturday's 120-105 defeat at Atlanta that ended a six-game overall run.

Those were the most allowed by Chicago in a regulation game. It also gave up 54 two games earlier to Milwaukee to match the second-most by an opponent in a 48-minute contest.

"Defensively, again I think we have slipped a little bit," coach Fred Hoiberg said. "We've got to get those principles back that made us a really good defensive team early in the season."

It's not clear if the defensive-minded Noah can alleviate the situation. His average plus-minus is at minus-1.0 for the club's second-worst mark to Taj Gibson's minus-1.2.

"I don't know about being able to make the difference," Noah said. "I'm just trying to help the team the best way I can, just staying focused."

Washington (16-19) may not provide much of a test since its average of 39.0 points in the paint is one of the league's lower figures.

The Bulls will have to worry about Marcin Gortat, who averages a league-high 8.1 paint touches and 13.4 points per game.

Of foremost concern probably is how they match up with John Wall, who averages an NBA-high 98.4 touches and 8.2 drives.

Wall had 24 points and 10 assists in Saturday's 105-99 victory at Orlando that ended a three-game slide. He's averaging 21.7 points in his last three games, but the major issue is that he has seven turnovers in each of them.

''I think I'm making the right reads but sometimes (teammates) drop 'em,'' Wall said. ''Some of them are my fault, but give credit to the defense. I try to make the right play if it's there. Sometimes I make it and sometimes we lose the ball and sometimes it's a bad pass by me."

Chicago only forces 12.4 turnovers per game for one of the league's worst marks.

Washington has played the last 15 games without injured leading scorer Bradley Beal, who averages 19.8 points. Gortat has been effective in that span at plus-58 for the club's best mark.

Chicago's Jimmy Butler is averaging 28.5 points in his last six games. In 13 career regular-season contests against the Wizards, he averages 7.7 points - his lowest against any opponent.

These teams split four 2014-15 meetings. The Wizards have won five of their last six in Chicago, including the postseason.

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