The Miami Heat and the Chicago Bulls will be missing some key players for their matchup Friday night. The latest injury to befall Chicago could have the most significant impact on the Eastern Conference playoff race.
Already short-handed, the reeling Bulls will be without All-Star point guard Derrick Rose on Friday night when they visit the Heat, who are looking for their fifth straight home win.
This showdown for playoff position in the East was already shaping up to be a battle of attrition before Rose got hurt in the first quarter Thursday night. The Bulls' leading scorer and playmaker sprained his left wrist falling to the floor after a midair collision with Orlando's Dwight Howard on a drive to the basket.
Rose was taken to the locker room for examination and didn't return. The Bulls said X-rays were negative but after an MRI on Friday in Miami confirmed the sprain, they ruled Rose out of this game and listed him as day-to-day.
Without Rose out for most of the game Thursday, the Bulls (31-33) fell 111-82 in Orlando for their sixth straight defeat. The skid has dropped Chicago into ninth place in the East, 1 1/2 games behind a three-way tie between Miami (33-32), Charlotte and Toronto.
The Bulls are struggling in part because of injuries that came before Rose's. Center Joakim Noah has had a breakout season derailed by plantar fasciitis, and swingman Luol Deng will likely join Noah and Rose on the bench Friday, missing a second consecutive contest - and third this month - because of a strained right calf.
"We've got to find a way to get healthy and weather the storm," coach Vinny Del Negro said after Thursday's loss. "But there's no question we are a battered bunch right now."
Chicago's injury woes don't bode well for its trip to Miami, where the Heat have won a season-high four in a row. Dwyane Wade had 27 points and eight assists and Jermaine O'Neal added 19 points and nine rebounds in a 108-97 win over the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday.
"We've had a better sense of urgency now in the last couple weeks and we've been able to sustain it," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "But we can't get ahead of ourselves and start to think about all these games in the future. We've got a big one on Friday."
Wade is averaging 30.8 points, 5.6 rebounds and 9.2 assists during Miami's 4-1 stretch since the start of March.
"We've got to move forward," Wade said. "We're in this playoff race. You don't have time to feel sorry for yourself."
Wade, a Chicago native, averaged 32.8 points while shooting 53.4 percent from the field in four games against the Bulls last season, but he's been held to 22.5 points and 37.5 percent shooting in his first two contests against them in 2009-10.
Chicago and Miami have split those meetings, with each team winning at home.
The Heat hope Wade will get some help Friday, but it's unclear where that support will come from. Second-leading scorer Michael Beasley, averaging 15.3 points, has a bruised left thigh and is listed as a gametime decision. Point guard Rafer Alston, a regular starter since he signed with Miami on Jan. 7, has left the team for unspecified reasons. Spoelstra said he still has not heard from Alston since a text-message exchange last week.
Adding to the Heat's woes, reserve forward Dorell Wright was charged Thursday with DUI and driving with a suspended license. Miami suspended Wright for two games, meaning he will miss this game and Sunday's matchup with Philadelphia.