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Bulls are set up for strong finish

Derrick Rose

Derrick Rose

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Updated: March 14, 2012 8:14AM

BOSTON — The Bulls finished the third-longest road trip in team history at 6-3. Their brutal early-season schedule is about to turn. They’ve played more road games than any other team. The Bulls also have played 10 of their 18 back-to-backs, including their only stretch of three consecutive games, and they have more victories than any other team.

From here on out, the Bulls will be facing more of a normal NBA schedule. In other words, the Bulls are in a great position.

“In some ways, being on the road early was good for us in the sense that it allowed us to spend a lot of time together,” coach Tom Thibodeau said. “We didn’t have the practice time we would’ve liked, but in many ways, it was good. It was 20 of the first 30 on the road, and now we’ll head back, and we’ll have the opportunity to practice more, less back-to-backs. You start off with the end in mind. You want to make sure you’re playing your best ball at the end of the season, and you want to make sure you’re as healthy as possible.”

The Bulls are looking forward to going home, but they hardly consider the road trip a rousing success.

“We wish we wouldn’t have lost any of them,” forward Carlos Boozer said. “We could be undefeated. To have seven losses is tough because we think we could’ve won them all.”

Rip’s return

The starting backcourt of Derrick Rose and Rip Hamilton has missed a combined 25 games because of injuries. Rose will meet with specialists Monday in Chicago in an effort to return from a back injury that caused him to miss back-to-back games. Thibodeau said Hamilton is still at least a week away.

“We don’t want to keep going down that road where he plays a few games, then we sit him again,’’ Thibodeau said.

Hamilton hasn’t been with the team for six games while dealing with a personal matter.

“We’re going to see where he is,” Thibodeau said. “If it makes more sense if he’s completely healthy to get a few games in [before the All-Star break], we’ll do that, but if it makes more sense for him to get the extra rest, we’re going to do that. We want him to be completely healthy.”

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