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Injured guard Kirk Hinrich returns but Bulls still fall to Cavs 101-98

Bulls center Joakim Noah is double teamed as he sky hooks shot first quarter Chicago Bulls vs. ClevelCavaliers NBA gameTuesday

Bulls center Joakim Noah is double teamed as he sky hooks a shot in the first quarter of the Chicago Bulls vs. the Cleveland Cavaliers NBA gameTuesday February 26, 2013 at the United Center. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

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Updated: February 26, 2013 10:54PM



Ninety minutes before Tuesday night’s 101-98 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers, Tom Thibodeau was asked if there would be any surprises coming with his starting lineup.

After all, it’s been nine months since all-everything point guard Derrick Rose went down in a heap in the first-round playoff exit to Philadelphia, lost with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee.

“No,’’ the Bulls coach quickly replied, as he was walking away from his pregame media session.

Not exactly an honest answer from the always tight-lipped Thibodeau, as there was one surprise. Just not the one that the city has been anticipating for months.

Kirk Hinrich and his injured right elbow were back in the starting lineup, after the veteran point guard had missed seven games with the elbow before the All-Star Break, came back for a game in New Orleans after the break, and was back on the shelf the last three games when the wound on the elbow re-opened and needed stitches again.

Hinrich played well in the loss, scoring 11 points and handing out 10 assists.

For now, that will have to do.

Bigger picture in the loss was the Bulls (32-25) are now 4-8 in February, and even the game-high 27 points from Carlos Boozer and Hinrich’s return didn’t slow down the water they seem to be taking on. It also ended an 11-game winning streak the Bulls had over Cleveland.

With the game against the Cavs, the first of three-consecutive home games for the Bulls this week, if there seemed to be an ideal time for Rose to return it was Tuesday night against a Cleveland team that was also without their best player in point guard Kyrie Irving [knee].

“Just daily improving, that’s all,’’ Thibodeau said, when asked about the latest update on Rose. “I just go day-by-day. I just want him to continue to improve, when he’s ready, he’s ready. His focus is on the rehab, our team is focused on their improvement and the opponent, and at some point hopefully he’ll rejoin us.’’

Although Nate Robinson was the latest Bulls player to show some excitement about what he’s been seeing from Rose in practice.

“Every day,’’ Robinson responded, when asked if he could see the improvement with Rose. “Every day he gets better and stronger, and hopefully he’s on the path to come back whenever he’s ready.’’



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