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C.J. Watson is hobbled after playing hurt

Luol Deng scored 20 points grabbed six rebounds 40 minutes against Pacers.  |  Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

Luol Deng scored 20 points and grabbed six rebounds in 40 minutes against the Pacers. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

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Updated: April 10, 2012 10:34AM

C.J. Watson paid the price for a noble effort in Sunday’s victory over the Philadelphia 76ers. After suffering a sprained ankle late in the first half, Watson scored seven of his nine points in the fourth quarter to help the Bulls pull out a 96-91 victory. But the ankle blew up on Watson overnight, and the valuable backup to Derrick Rose missed Monday night’s game against the Indiana Pacers.

Watson received treatment Monday and is day-to-day, Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said.

The decision to play Watson after he suffered the injury was Watson’s.

‘‘We taped it up at half, and he said he wanted to give it a shot,’’ Thibodeau said. ‘‘He did. But he had swelling [Monday].’’

Watson has missed 13 of the Bulls’ 40 games. With Watson out, John Lucas III backed up Rose.

‘‘We’ve been there before,’’ Thibodeau said. ‘‘We like our depth. One guy goes down, the next guy steps up. You just have to be ready to go. John’s played extremely well for us.’’

We’re No. 1?

The Bulls (32-8) boast the best record in the NBA, an important distinction when it comes to playoff seeding. But Thibodeau said the Bulls are not preoccupied with their standing in the league.

‘‘We don’t look at that,’’ he said. ‘‘Our concentration is to be ready for tonight’s game. Try to improve every day. And then we’ll see where we are in the end.’’

Pacers lurking in East

The Pacers came into Monday night’s game with a six-game winning streak, albeit against teams with a combined record of 52-164. But they won four of them by margins of 35 (Bobcats), 24 (Warriors), 18 (Hornets) and 14 (Bobcats).

Like the 76ers, the Pacers can match the Bulls with one glaring exception — no Rose.

Asked if he’d like to see his team make a trade before the deadline, Pacers coach Frank Vogel said, only ‘‘if it makes sense.’’

‘‘I like the team we have now,’’ Vogel said. ‘‘I don’t think we have a ceiling. Our potential is high. We can beat anybody come playoff time. I’m just enjoying coaching this team the way it is.’’

Home cookin’

Coming off three consecutive victories on the road, the Bulls began a stretch of seven-of-eight games at the United Center, where they were 15-2 coming after Monday night’s victory. The one road game in that stretch is Wednesday night in Milwaukee — which has become a virtual home game for the Bulls since last season.

After returning from Milwaukee, the Bulls face the Magic, Jazz, Knicks, Heat, Trail Blazers and 76ers at the United Center. They play 16 of their final 26 regular-season games at home.

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