The Chicago Bulls have struggled on the road against the Western Conference. They get another chance to improve Friday when they visit Ray Allen and the Seattle SuperSonics in the second game of a seven-game road trip through the West.

Chicago (26-20) lost for the seventh time in eight road games versus Western Conference clubs Tuesday when it opened its second seven-game swing of the season with a 110-98 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers.

"Every time we got close we just had tremendous trouble coming up with anything," Bulls coach Scott Skiles said. "In those moments, being a team on the road and trying to come back, you have to make plays."

The Bulls are 6-14 on the road overall, including a 1-6 mark during their first seven-game trip from Nov. 14-25, which featured five consecutive losses to teams from the West.

Chicago is hoping the potential return of center Ben Wallace on Friday will give it a lift. The team played without him Tuesday due to a bruised tendon in his left knee, suffered Saturday during Chicago's 100-97 victory over Miami.

Skiles said the All-Star center could return either for this contest or Friday at Golden State.

"He's the centerpiece for us," Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich said. "He does so much for us every night."

If Wallace can't go against Seattle, Skiles is likely to opt for P.J. Brown at center. Brown - usually used mostly as a forward - has started all three games Wallace has missed this season. He had eight points and eight rebounds Tuesday.

Wallace had 15 points and 20 rebounds in the Bulls' 99-84 win at home over Seattle on Dec. 13. However, the Bulls have dropped three of their last four trips to Seattle.

The SuperSonics (17-29) dropped their third game in a row overall Wednesday, 112-102 at Houston, despite 36 points from Ray Allen.

"We needed someone else to make an open jump shot," SuperSonics coach Bob Hill said. "We put so much pressure on him (Allen) and he is unbelievable the way he keeps hitting those shots. He's been phenomenal."

Allen leads the team with 26.6 points per game, but is not getting much help. The shooting guard has scored 33.2 points over the last five games, but Seattle has lost four of them while allowing 109.8 points per game.

"It's small, little stuff that is hurting us," Allen said. "Our guys are learning on the job and it is a group effort. As a team, we have to do better."

One of the young players emerging is Nick Collison, who had 25 points and 17 rebounds Wednesday. The big man is averaging 18.3 points and 12.5 rebounds over the last 10 games.

Allen totaled 47 points in two games - both wins - against Chicago last season. He did not play in the Dec. 13 meeting due to a foot injury.


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