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Alex Caruso plays through a sprained ankle in a win at Utah as the Chicago Bulls balance their defensive leader’s minutes with his total style

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Chicago Bulls goaltender Alex Caruso was able to play in Monday night’s 114-107 win over the Utah Jazz after leaving the team’s overtime loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday with a sprained right ankle.

Caruso had five points and six rebounds in 27 minutes as the Bulls rallied from a seven-point halftime deficit. DeMar DeRozan led the Bulls with 26 points, while ex-Bull Lauri Markkanen scored a Jazz-high 32, including 7 of 11 from 3-point range.

Coach Billy Donovan said Caruso asked to be removed from Friday’s game after awkwardly planting his foot twice in the final two minutes of overtime. The request was a rarity from Caruso – who often plays through injury – and prompted immediate concern from Bulls coaching and medical staff. Second-year guard Ayo Dosunmu closed the game in place of Caruso.

“It was very sweet,” Donovan said ahead of Monday’s game. “He just got to a point where he couldn’t move very well.”

Caruso was listed as questionable on Monday after being absent from any contact activity over the weekend. However, Donovan said he was confident in Caruso’s availability against the Jazz and for the remainder of the West Coast trip.

Caruso has spent the offseason focusing on injury prevention after missing half of last season with a series of ailments, including a broken wrist, back spasms and injuries to his hamstrings, ankle and at the foot.

After mostly coming off the bench with the Los Angeles Lakers, Caruso partially attributed the increase in injuries to his increased playing time for the Bulls, which doesn’t always align with his overall approach to defense. But Caruso said he didn’t want to give up that style just because he was getting more minutes in Chicago.

“It’s really important for me to be out there playing,” Caruso said in October. “I don’t think I’ve changed the way I play – that’s what got me here. That’s why the Bulls want me on the team. That’s why Billy loves what I do with my energy, my defense and how I coach other guys.

Donovan said the Bulls have no desire to see Caruso reduce his physique to protect himself from injury. But Donovan said he will have to balance Caruso’s minutes to ensure he doesn’t overwork himself and leave his body vulnerable to injury.

“He’s going to play hard and I want him to be who he is,” Donovan said. “The biggest thing we try to do is be mindful of his minutes. He plays so hard, so if there’s a loose ball, he’s going to play hard, you know.

“But from my perspective, I just try to manage how well he plays and competes versus how many minutes he gets.”

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