Playing with a depleted lineup is nothing new for the Chicago Bulls, but now their already sizable injury list is growing
Adding to those that have regularly been in street clothes - Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson and Richard Hamilton - the Bulls will also be without leading scorer Luol Deng on Tuesday night against the visiting Toronto Raptors.
Injuries have been a major storyline over the last couple of months for Chicago (42-34), but through these tough times Deng had managed to stay on the court despite a nagging hip injury. As a precaution, Deng, the NBA's leader in minutes played per game at 39.1, was kept out Sunday in Detroit and will be sidelined again.
The Bulls did get Noah back following an eight-game absence with an injured right foot, but he suffered a setback and will be back on the bench.
Coach Tom Thibodeau put together his 13th starting lineup of the season against the Pistons, and after a 99-85 loss - the Bulls' first to Detroit in 19 meetings - he said he'll have a new starting five in Toronto. Starting Kirk Hinrich and Nate Robinson together helped Chicago build an 11-point first-quarter lead, but later led to substitution problems and left the team with a thin bench.
The reserves combined for 12 points on 4-of-16 shooting.
Marco Belinelli could potentially start, but he returned Sunday after missing the previous seven games with an abdominal strain and his minutes will likely be limited. He missed his two field-goal attempts in 20 scoreless minutes after averaging 11.7 points in starting the previous 11 games he played.
"We've got to be focused," Thibodeau told the Bulls' official website. "We've got to concentrate and we have to give maximum effort. We have to have that edge, we've got play with great intensity. If we don't, we're in trouble. Playing with great intensity, having concentration, knowing your opponent well, that's all part of winning and we've got to get that done."
Especially with seeding and home-court advantage for a first-round playoff series on the line.
The discouraging defeat to a 52-loss Pistons team dropped the Bulls two games behind Brooklyn for fourth place in the Eastern Conference. Their lead over sixth-place Atlanta also dwindled to one.
They'll try to bounce back by winning a sixth straight game over the Raptors (29-48).
In this season's only other matchup, Deng hit a tiebreaking jump shot with three seconds left in the extra session in a 107-105 win Jan. 16. Carlos Boozer had a season-high 36 points and 12 rebounds and Deng finished with 19.
The Raptors arrive in Chicago after Saturday's 100-83 loss in Milwaukee. Rudy Gay, Toronto's leading scorer with 19.1 points per game, made 1-of-10 shots and matched his season low with four points as the Raptors trailed by as many as 32.
"We came out lethargic, had a hard time getting ourselves going," coach Dwane Casey said. "They dictated the tone of the game and we never got it back.
"I told the guys, 'If we are serious about being a playoff organization, if we are serious about it, our mental approach has to change.'''
Alan Anderson led Toronto with 14 points off the bench, and Kyle Lowry scored seven. Those two came up big against the Bulls in January, as Anderson had a team-high 27 points and Lowry added 26.
These teams play again Friday in Toronto.