WASHINGTON -- The Chicago Bulls will take any possible win they can get at the moment, even if a particular win is uglier than some of the games they have lost this season.
That's why the general feeling hovering over the team's locker room on Friday night after a 95-87 win over the Washington Wizards was one of relief. After struggling through so many injuries and so many ups and downs this season, Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro was just glad to be able to talk about something positive. But, in truth, if Friday night's game showed anything, it proved why the Bulls probably aren't headed to the playoffs at season's end.
For the first time in almost two months they had a full compliment of players. Luol Deng returned after missing the past 11 games with a calf strain. Joakim Noah started for the first time in two months after battling plantar fasciitis. And Kirk Hinrich was back in the lineup after spraining his ankle on Tuesday against the Phoenix Suns.
But aside from a stretch in the fourth quarter, the Bulls really didn't play well at all.
Their defensive intensity was lagging all night and they looked discombobulated at times on the floor. Had it not been for Derrick Rose (24 points, five assists and four rebounds) Taj Gibson (14 points and 16 rebounds) and a few big shots by Deng, the Bulls would have lost to a Wizards team that came into the game having lost 16 of their past 17.
"It was definitely a game we really needed," a tired looking Noah said. "We didn't play great, but we got a 'W' and that's all that matters."
Maybe so, but the fact that this game was this close for so long has to concern Del Negro as his team heads into the final two weeks of the season.
"It wasn't our best basketball," Del Negro said. "But we found a way to win, and we got the defensive stops in the second half we needed."
With everybody back on the floor though, the Bulls should have coasted past a depleted Wizards roster. Instead of getting an added boost from having more healthy bodies, the Bulls appeared to go through an adjustment period at times -- a stretch that Del Negro knows his team can't afford with just seven games left to play.
"We don't have time for an adjustment period," he said. "We play [Saturday] night. Guys are just going to have to battle through it. We'll see who's healthy and who's feeling good [Saturday] and those are the guys that will be out there. But we're going to need everybody. Whoever can go will be out there, and we'll see how it comes together every day."
Del Negro better hope everything comes together quickly for his team, because if they play like they did on Friday night the mere idea of sneaking back into the playoffs will drift away much like the rest of the season has for the Bulls.