The Chicago Bulls are on verge of winning their opening three road games for the first time in 18 seasons and will travel to a place they haven’t lost in the past four campaigns.
It’s unclear, though, if the Bulls will have Derrick Rose or Joakim Noah to help them try to extend their lengthy road win streak against the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday night.
Chicago (3-1) survived Rose’s and Noah’s absences in a 98-90 victory over Orlando on Tuesday. Jimmy Butler had a team-best 21 points after scoring 24 and making the winning free throws with 0.2 seconds left in his season debut, a 106-105 victory at Minnesota on Saturday.
Pau Gasol contributed 16 points and a season-high 13 rebounds in Tuesday’s win, and Noah’s replacement, Taj Gibson, also scored 16 points.
“It was a good team win,” coach Tom Thibodeau said. “We can’t feel too good about it. We have to be ready for tomorrow night.”
The Bulls haven’t started 3-0 on the road since winning their first six games in 1996-97, and Chicago would appear to have a strong chance to accomplish that feat by heading to Milwaukee.
The Bulls have won their last eight road games versus the Bucks (2-2), matching the league’s second-longest active streak against one opponent. Noah had a team-best 21 points, 18 rebounds and a pivotal late block in the first of two visits last season Dec. 13.
Chicago also needed Mike Dunleavy’s 3-pointer with 5.8 seconds left for a 91-90 win. The Bulls had an easier time in a 81-72 victory Jan. 10 with Noah only providing eight points and 10 rebounds.
The NBA’s reigning defensive player of the year is dealing with an illness and it’s unknown if he’ll be available for Chicago’s attempt at a fourth consecutive overall victory in the series. Rose sprained both ankles in a 114-108 overtime loss to Cleveland on Friday but unlike Noah, took part in Tuesday morning’s shootaround.
The status of the Bulls star point guard, who has appeared in only 12 games since his knee injury in the 2012 playoffs, wasn’t known until 30 minutes before the game against Orlando.
“You have to always be prepared physically and mentally to face differing and difficult circumstances where you’re going to have to play a little longer, work a little harder,” Gasol said. “This was what this league is about, as well.”
Milwaukee might get a chance to take advantage of those absences in its return home after snapping a 16-game road losing streak. The Bucks used another high-scoring performance from Brandon Knight for an 87-81 win against Indiana on Tuesday.
“It means a lot,” Knight said. “For us, it’s just a matter of building on it and not being content.”
Knight had 23 points on 10-of-16 shooting and was the only Milwaukee player with more than 11. The point guard is averaging 20.5 points on 46.4 percent shooting in the first four games.
He was held to 34.3 percent shooting (24 for 70) and missed 11 of 14 3-pointers in last season’s series against Chicago, but still averaged 16.0 points.
This game will mark the first matchup between No. 2 overall draft pick Jabari Parker and his hometown team. Parker had 10 points in Tuesday’s win, but finished with three rebounds and fell well short of a third consecutive double-double.
Milwaukee is trying to win its first two home games for the first time since a 4-0 start in 2011-12.