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Article posted: 2/6/2013 8:50 PM

Noah could be welcome return

By Mike McGraw

The challenges don't get any easier as the Bulls finish up their season-long six-game road trip.

After spending Monday in Indiana, which now has a 14-game home winning streak, the Bulls moved on to Denver, which has won 13 of its last 15 contests and is 21-3 at the Pepsi Center this season.

The Bulls flew to Colorado on Wednesday morning and practiced in the high altitude. There's a chance they'll have a more complete team, but Joakim Noah (plantar fasciitis) and Marco Belinelli (sprained ankle) will be game-time decisions.

"I'm hoping I can play," Noah told reporters in Denver, according to espn.com. "I felt pretty good (Tuesday). I was just shooting, so we'll see how it goes in practice today and we'll see how (the foot) reacts."

Noah has missed the past three games to try to get the plantar fasciitis under control. His presence would help against the Nuggets, who lead the league in rebounds per game.

"It feels better every day," Noah added. "I think it's something that I'm going to have to deal with for a little while, but I feel pretty good."

Belinelli turned his left ankle late in the first quarter against Indiana. He knocked down a 3-point shot with Pacers rookie Orlando Johnson running at him, but it looked like the ankle rolled as Belinelli landed on the floor, not on Johnson's foot.

The shooting guard returned to the game and scored a season-high 24 points. Belinelli planned to skip Wednesday's practice, but said the ankle was feeling better.

Kirk Hinrich is expected to miss his fourth straight game after having a procedure done on his right elbow last weekend.

Second chance for Butler:

Participants in the all-star weekend contests will be announced Thursday on TNT. Jimmy Butler wasn't chosen for the rookie-sophomore game, but some Bulls have pushed him for the slam dunk contest.

He might have a chance. Last year's winner, Utah's Jeremy Evans, was more of an unknown name than Butler is now.

Also, the all-star game will be held in Butler's hometown of Houston, providing a chance for broadcasters and reporters to repeat his inspiring story of surviving homelessness as a teenager.

Maybe it will help that the league is turning this year's all-star Saturday into an East vs. West competition. The East captain, Dwyane Wade, is a Marquette product, like Butler.

Rocky Mountain drought:

The Bulls have lost five in a row at the Pepsi Center, but haven't played in Denver since Carmelo Anthony was still wearing a Nuggets uniform.

Their last visit to Denver was Nov. 26, 2010. That was a night when Derrick Rose didn't play, C.J. Watson scored 33 points, but the Bulls lost 98-97 when Anthony hit a jumper at the buzzer.

These teams met just once during the lockout season, a 108-91 Nuggets' victory on March 26 at the United Center.

Denver 'D' makes history:

On Tuesday, Denver rallied from 15 points down at halftime to beat Milwaukee 112-104. Bucks center Sam Dalembert finished with 35 points and 12 rebounds, setting two historic milestones, according to Elias Sports Bureau.

He's the first person in the shot clock era to produce that many points with that many rebounds in only 27 minutes of playing time.

Also, this was Dalembert's first ever 30-point performance in his 754th career game. No player in NBA history had gone even 600 games before an initial 30-point scoring night. Another Bucks player, Fred Roberts, was the previous extreme, doing it in his 584th game in 1991.

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