December 09, 2014

The return of Derrick Rose and the start of an advantageous stretch of schedule wasn't enough to keep the injury-plagued Chicago Bulls in a playoff spot.

They'll try to get back into position during a four-game homestand that begins Thursday night against the Brooklyn Nets.

Rose was back on the court Wednesday after missing back-to-back games because of a strained left groin but went 7 of 19 while scoring 16 points in a 117-96 drubbing by Washington. Jimmy Butler missed eight of 12 shots in a 17-point performance and has shot a combined 9 of 30 in his two games since coming back from a swollen knee.

"We just couldn't really get a stop tonight, so they got us,'' said forward Doug McDermott, who scored a team-best 20 points and has a combined 49 in his past two games. "We've got to come out with urgency. We didn't do that tonight. That's on us."

The Bulls (33-33) played without Pau Gasol (knee) again as they kicked off a seven-game stretch of opponents with sub-.500 records. Taj Gibson was forced to leave after aggravating his right hamstring.

"The challenge is pretty tough right now, but that's why we're pros." Rose said.

With Gasol expected to sit out again Thursday, Chicago will next try to avoid joining that list of sub-.500 teams.

The Bulls haven't had a losing record since Feb. 6, 2014, and have avoided that twice this month with much-needed victories. A 109-107 victory in Toronto on Monday put the Bulls one percentage point ahead of Detroit for eighth place in the Eastern Conference, but both teams are now at .500, and Chicago has two games in hand.

The Pistons hold the tiebreaker because of their 2-1 lead in the season series. With Detroit idle, Chicago will try to jump back into the lead with its sixth win in eight home games.

The Bulls have won eight of the last 11 regular-season meetings against the Nets (19-48) but have dropped the past two at home, including a 105-102 defeat Dec. 21.

Brooklyn has lost its past three road games, but it snapped a four-game overall skid with a 131-114 victory against the 76ers on Tuesday.

Bojan Bogdanovic registered a career-high 44 points - 16 more than in any other game - in the Nets' highest-scoring performance in five seasons. It was also their highest-scoring non-overtime game since a 131-113 win over Boston on Feb. 8, 2000.

"We just came out aggressive and held it for the majority of the game," center Brook Lopez said. "They made a few runs, but we always answered back. For the most part we were unselfish with the ball."

Lopez has averaged 23.5 points and 9.5 rebounds in the two games against Chicago this season, his third-best scoring performance versus any Eastern Conference team.

Butler has shot 64.5 percent (20 of 31) and scored a combined 48 points in the two meetings. Rose, meanwhile, is shooting 30.0 percent and averaging 10.0 points in his past four matchups.

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