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The Bulls host the Jazz on Friday night, but most of the conversation about Chicago's team centers around the news that Derrick Rose has been cleared to play by his doctors.
While Rose has cleared one important hurdle in his recovery, the former MVP still doesn't plan to return to action until he can "confidently dunk off his left foot," according to an ESPN Chicago report.
At the moment, that sounds like a difficult timetable to predict and the Bulls certainly can't afford to spend their time guessing Rose's return date as they look to avoid their first three-game losing streak since mid-November.
Coincidentally enough, the Jazz will be attempting to avoid a three-game skid of their own Friday and it looks as if they will be the beneficiary of some good injury news as well. Utah's leading scorer and rebounder Al Jefferson (ankle) was able to get back to practice Thursday and after getting through Friday's shootaround with no setbacks, it seems likely that he'll return from his three-game absence. While the Jazz fell 93-89 in their first meeting with Chicago back on Feb. 8, Jefferson still managed to shine with 32 points and 13 rebounds on 15-of-22 shooting.
And just like in their first meeting, the Bulls will be without the services of the oft-injured Kirk Hinrich. Hinrich is expected to sit out for the 13th time in the last 17 as he continues to nurse his nagging foot injury. Joining him on the bench will be Richard Hamilton (back) and Taj Gibson (sprained MCL), who combined for 20 points and 11 rebounds in the Bulls' aforementioned win in Utah.
Even with the compounding injuries, expect both teams to have a paralleled sense of urgency Friday with each freefalling in the playoff standings. At the moment, the Lakers sit only a game and a half behind the Jazz for the eight seed in the West, while the Bulls have the Celtics (half game back) and the Bucks (three games back) nipping at their heels in the East.
The Bulls have to feel fortunate they're at least playing on a Friday though: Chicago is an incredible 19-3 in their last 22 Friday night games dating back to last season. On the other end, the Jazz have won just six of their 14 Friday night showdowns in the 2012-13 season, so the timing of this matchup certainly seems to be in the Bulls' favor.
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