PORTLAND, Ore.—The number of healthy and available players keeps dwindling, but the Bulls' chances haven't in the woebegone Eastern Conference playoff picture.
Remarkably, even after the short-handed Bulls fell 100-97 to the Trail Blazers on Wednesday night at the Rose Garden, they remained only a half-game out of the eighth spot because the Nets lost again.
Tyrus Thomas' bank shot with 83 seconds left pulled the Bulls within 93-90. But after forcing a Brandon Roy miss, the Bulls turned it over with 51.2 seconds left when Travis Outlaw tipped Andres Nocioni's pass off Ben Wallace.
"We were trying to make a little triangle game with Nocioni, Wallace and [Chris Duhon]," interim coach Jim Boylan said. " 'Noce' made an aggressive play, and they rotated to him. It's always hard to catch a tipped pass. It's one of those plays."
Outlaw then scored in the lane with 26.8 seconds left for a 95-90 lead, and the Bulls never had a chance to tie again. Nocioni hit a three-pointer with less than a second left to tie Thabo Sefolosha's team-high 22 points, also a career high for Sefolosha.
Roy, who led Portland with 28, made one free throw and tried to miss the second intentionally with 0.5 seconds left. Befitting the Bulls' current luck, the shot dropped.
"I'm not one to make predictions, but I knew our guys would pull up something extra," Boylan said.
All this despite the Bulls buying out Viktor Khryapa's contract earlier Wednesday and also playing without the injured Luol Deng, Kirk Hinrich and Ben Gordon.
Deng remains out indefinitely with left Achilles' tendinitis, Hinrich sat with bruised ribs and Gordon was a surprise late scratch with his sprained right wrist.
The Bulls dressed 10 players, and Duhon and Thomas aren't even at 100 percent. Too bad they didn't hire Mike Brown as a player-coach.
Lame humor aside, the Gordon situation is serious. The Bulls' leading scorer originally missed five games after getting injured during the Jan. 21 loss in Memphis and now is out indefinitely after averaging 26.5 points in the last two games.
"I probably need to stay off it for a little while, especially with it being my shooting hand," Gordon said. "Say we make a playoff run. I don't want to be worrying about it down the stretch."
Gordon said he felt stiffness and soreness during the second half of the Kings' loss but kept the pain quiet. He will visit another specialist.
Boylan merely will keep riding his remaining players.
"It's a difficult situation," Boylan said.