With Durant out, Warriors visit United Center to face Bulls

The Bulls find themselves in the middle of the NBA's biggest story.

Unfortunately, it has everything to do with the schedule and nothing to do with anything going well with the Bulls.

Fresh off news that Kevin Durant will miss at least a month with a left knee injury, the Golden State Warriors make their annual visit to the United Center on Thursday.

Durant was diagnosed with a Grade 2 MCL sprain and tibial bone bruise, according to Warriors staff members. Durant is out indefinitely and will be re-evaluated in four weeks, team officials said. It has not been determined if Durant will play before the end of the regular season.

"They still have three Olympians on that team, the two-time MVP (Steph Curry), and they're coming off a loss," Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said Wednesday "Obviously they're the team to beat with the addition of Durant."

Two long streaks will be on the line in this one. The Warriors (50-10) haven't lost two regular season games in a row in nearly two years. The last time: April 5 and 7, 2015.

Both times the Bulls played Golden State this season, the Warriors were coming off a loss. They got beat by Sacramento before the Bulls played in Oakland on Feb. 8 and lost 123-92 without Jimmy Butler or Dwyane Wade.

The Bulls' strange, inexplicable TNT streak is also at stake. The Bulls have won 17 consecutive home games that were nationally-televised on TNT, most recently against Boston before the all-star break. This streak goes back to Feb. 21, 2013 when the Bulls lost a game to Miami.

Durant - who is averaging a team-high 25.3 points and 8.2 rebounds this season - was injured about a minute into Tuesday's game at Washington. Durant was playing defense and not involved in the play, but when a shot went up, Golden State center Zaza Pachulia and Washington's Marcin Gortat battled for rebounding position and Pachulia fell backward into Durant's left knee. Gortat was called for a loose-ball foul.

Durant reacted immediately and was helped to the locker room. He did not return to the game and had an MRI exam that night. Without Durant, the Warriors erased a 19-point deficit, but lost to Washington 112-108. As of Wednesday, Golden State's lead for first place in the West was 4 games ahead of San Antonio.

Can the Bulls take advantage of the Warriors being short-handed? Well, there could be an adjustment period since Durant was such a big part of their attack, but Golden State still has the four key members of the 2015 title team - Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala.

"The core guys have been together for awhile - myself, Andre, Shaun (Livingston), Klay, Draymond," Curry said after the Washington game, according to the East Bay Times. "But we have a different roster and we haven't been without him but one game this year. So it'll be an adjustment."

Curry missed 14 consecutive 3-point shots during the past two games, a career-low. He hit a couple in the second half of the Wizards game and finished with 25 points.

"They're No. 1 in basically every offensive category," Hoiberg said. "We've got to obviously sprint back and try and slow them down in transition as best we can. You've got to contest every shot. You've got to try and force them into tough ones, understanding that they're going to make some of those. You can't put your head down. If you do, they'll pounce all over you."

• Follow Mike's Bulls reports on Twitter @McGrawDHBulls.

Valentine knows to play it safe with heat-checks

Passing of trade deadline may be good for Mirotic

Hoiberg won't say when he'll hand the reins to Payne

Portis gives Bulls a different look for starting lineup

Bulls' scoring can't keep up with bad defense in loss to Denver

Durant suffers knee injury, status questionable for Thursday vs. Bulls

As offense improves, Bulls' defense sinks quickly

Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry, left, drives the ball against Bulls forward Nikola Mirotic in a game on Feb. 8 in Oakland. Associated Press

Bulls game day

Bulls vs. Golden State Warriors at the United Center, 7 p.m. Thursday

TV: TNT •Radio: WLS 890-AM

Outlook: This game hardly needs an introduction. After two spectacular seasons, Golden State is rolling along this year with a 50-10 record, but will be without top scorer Kevin Durant for at least a month after he suffered a left knee injury Tuesday in Washington. The Warriors will try to make do with two-time MVP Steph Curry (24.8 ppg), SG Klay Thompson (21.9 ppg) and PF Draymond Green (10.2 points, 8.1 rebounds). Golden State's supporting cast isn't as good as it was, but the team is getting contributions from Andre Iguodala, SG Ian Clark and new C Zaza Pachulia. The Warriors have won two straight at the UC.

Next: Los Angeles Clippers at the United Center on Saturday, 7:30 p.m.

- Mike McGraw

Article Comments
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the "flag" link in the lower-right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.