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Tribune basketball reporter

So much for the easy part of the schedule.

The Bulls wrapped up their so-called favorable opening schedule¬óseven home dates in their first 11 games against less than the top NBA competition¬ówith a 98-90 loss to Seattle on Saturday night. The defeat left the Bulls 4-7 overall and 1-6 at home, and now they'll hit the road to play five of the best teams in the Western Conference.

Seattle blitzed the Bulls much of the game with three-point shooting but then stunned the Bulls down the stretch behind the rugged play of two of their underrated big men, Calvin Booth and Jerome James, who combined for 16 points. The pair constantly got inside on the Bulls' supposed strength and kept the Bulls from making a serious run throughout the fourth quarter.

The Bulls will not play at home again until December, and the last sound they heard was booing from a disappointed home crowd.

Jalen Rose led the Bulls with 19 points, and Tyson Chandler had 15 points and 11 rebounds off the bench. For Seattle, Rashard Lewis had 27 and Ronald Murray 26.

Although the first few weeks of the NBA season usually are reserved for development, the Bulls already were feeling desperation with their slow start and Western trip beginning Tuesday night in Phoenix.

"Every game you play is important," Chandler said. "You never know how the season is going to go for you. But it's important for us [now] because we've been struggling at home and have to make a stand. It's important to get momentum before going out West and seeing some of the top teams in the league."

The Bulls got a boost with the return of Chandler, who missed four games after aggravating his back problems. Chandler first took the court with just over three minutes left in the first quarter and the Bulls trying to put a lasso on the Sonics' stallions.

"I'm definitely excited to be out there," said Chandler, who quickly ran himself into a basket, a turnover and a pair of rebounds.

"It's been a while, but I just want to rebound and play hard. I expected to be a little off, so I just had to play as hard as I could."

The Bulls needed Chandler after Lonny Baxter played a little too hard in the second quarter. The lumbering second-year forward failed to catch Antonio Daniels on a breakaway, reaching just Daniels' head as Daniels went up to dunk the ball with the Bulls holding a 32-24 advantage.

Daniels crumpled under the force of Baxter's blow, and Baxter was ejected with a flagrant foul for intent to injure.

But it was the Bulls who began to bleed. The high-scoring Sonics scored 10 straight points as Vladimir Radmanovic hit a pair of three-pointers on the way to his 19 first-half points.

Seattle's strength is the perimeter, and the Bulls hoped a fourth game in five nights on the road would slow the Sonics. But in losing badly Friday at Indiana, Seattle pulled its starters most of the fourth quarter, and they were invigorated against the less physical Bulls.

The game seemed to discourage the sellout crowd, many of whom began doing the wave.

The only solace for the Bulls, who fell behind 78-70 entering the fourth quarter, was that spectator Michael Jordan didn't stand up and wave goodbye as well.

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