By Cody Westerlund–

CHICAGO (CBS) — With 14 games to go in their inconsistent season and on the outside looking in to the playoff race, the Bulls may be without one of their key players for some time.

Guard Dwyane Wade left early in the fourth quarter with a sprained right elbow and didn’t return in Chicago’s 98-91 loss to Memphis on Wednesday night at the United Center. Wade suffered the injury when his elbow was caught awkwardly while battling Zach Randolph and others for a rebound, he said.

Wade will have an MRI on Thursday morning. It’s not clear yet whether he’ll travel with the Bulls when they leave in the early afternoon for a road game against the Wizards on Friday night.

Wade knew his injury was something more than his funny bone because he had some “pops.” He attempted to play through the pain for a time, but it proved too much.

“I knew it was something a little bit more just because of what I heard,” Wade said. “I tried to play through it a little bit until the pain started getting a little bit more excruciating.

“My concern level is there’s only 14 games left, and I’ve never had this injury, so I can’t say two days, two weeks. I don’t know. I know Jimmy (Butler) had something similar to this before. I talked to him, and I don’t like what he had to say about this. That’s my concern, is that we’re trying to make the playoffs and there’s only 14 games left.

“It’s my shooting arm too.”

Butler missed three weeks in March 2015 because of a sprained left, non-shooting elbow. It’s an experience he hasn’t forgotten, because the elbow tends to be difficult to move and will “stiffen up,” Butler said.

“He asked me how long I was out and I told him and he was said, ‘Oh wow,'” Butler said of his conversation with Wade. “I mean, it is was it is. Hopefully it’s not what I had. I know his pain, I can tell you that much, and I know how it feels.

“It’s not a good pain at all.”

The Bulls missed the usual production of Butler and Wade down the stretch Wednesday as both struggled all evening, getting outscored 15-8 in the final 4:20 after tying the game at 83-all. Butler had 14 points on 4-of-16 shooting, while Wade had eight points on 3-of-11 shooting before leaving early. Grizzlies big man Marc Gasol and point guard Mike Conley each scored 27 points.

The loss dropped the Bulls to 32-36 and a game out of the final playoff spot in the East. Chicago has lost six of its past seven games.

“They were the aggressor,” Wade said. “They was Memphis.”

Cody Westerlund is a sports editor for and covers the Bulls. He’s also the co-host of the @LockedOnBulls podcast, which you can subscribe to on iTunes and Stitcher. Follow him on Twitter @CodyWesterlund.