Though wins have become increasingly rare for the Chicago Bulls over the season's second half, they've been plentiful in recent matchups with the Toronto Raptors.
Desperate for a victory, the Bulls hope Jimmy Butler's expected return leads to a season sweep when they visit the Atlantic Division leaders on Monday night.
A two-month long free fall has dropped Chicago (32-32) one game behind Detroit for eighth place in the Eastern Conference, with injuries contributing greatly to its 10-20 record since Jan. 9. The Bulls have lost 11 times during a 16-game stretch in which Butler's played just twice due to a left knee strain.
While the All-Star is slated to play after practicing fully on Sunday, the Bulls will still be short-handed as they vie for a ninth consecutive win over Toronto (44-20) and fourth this season. Derrick Rose is expected to miss a second straight game with a groin strain and Pau Gasol will be held out of the next two due to a swollen right knee.
Gasol is averaging 19.5 points and 14.5 rebounds over his last four games and had 17 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists in Friday's 118-96 home loss to Miami, in which the Bulls were again hurt by defensive lapses and an inability to protect the ball.
Chicago committed 18 turnovers – five during a 22-2 fourth-quarter run that gave the Heat a 23-point lead – and allowed Miami to shoot 51.6 percent. It's averaged 20.8 giveaways over the last four games and is permitting 108.3 points per contest over its past 16.
“The dominoes started falling and it was one of those things where we could not stop their momentum,” coach Fred Hoiberg said. “It started with turnovers and it's been the theme the last few games. The fourth quarter we just lost our mind out there.”
The Bulls attempt to avoid their first nine-game road skid since Jan. 7-Feb. 2, 2004 in a venue where they last lost on April 12, 2013. Chicago recorded its fifth straight win at Air Canada Centre on Jan. 3 behind an epic performance from Butler, who broke Michael Jordan's franchise record by scoring 40 of his 42 points in the second half in a 115-113 victory.
Rose had 26 points and Doug McDermott scored a career-high 30 on 13-of-17 shooting as Chicago extended its series streak with a 116-106 home win on Feb. 19.
McDermott has been slumping lately, though, having shot 34.9 percent over his last five.
Toronto's DeMar DeRozan remained hot with a 38-point, 10-rebound, seven-assist effort in Saturday's 112-104 overtime victory over Miami, the Raptors' third consecutive win and 15th in its last 16 at home. The 2016 All-Star is averaging 30.2 points over a six-game stretch.
''He played fantastic, did what he's supposed to do (Thursday) and that's what an All-Star does,'' said backcourt mate Kyle Lowry. ''He laid it down and he's been playing that way the whole season.”
Jonas Valanciunas added 20 points and 10 rebounds to help offset an off night from Lowry, held to 4-of-16 shooting while managing 16 points – his lowest total since Feb. 10. The standout point guard averaged 27.0 points on a 56.8 percent field goal rate over his previous six.