Raptors, Bulls will try to cure what ails them

CHICAGO — The Toronto Raptors have struggled all season to establish a defensive identity, which has kept them from remaining among the elite teams in the Eastern Conference.

The Chicago Bulls, meanwhile, haven’t been able to create any sort of identity, which has them holding on for their playoffs lives entering Tuesday night’s meeting with the Raptors at the United Center.

The Bulls have been reeling of late and are coming off a woeful six-game road trip when they lost four of six, including the final three games by an average of 26 points per game.

The latest loss, 117-89 to the Minnesota Timberwolves in which the Bulls played without Jimmy Butler, Dwyane Wade, Paul Zipser and Nikola Mirotic, dropped Chicago (26-29) three games below .500.

Wade (wrist) and Zipser (ankle) are questionable to return for Tuesday’s game. Butler (heel contusion) will be evaluated after Tuesday morning’s team shootaround. Mirotic has experienced back spasms that has the Bulls dealing with plenty of injuries with two games remaining before the All-Star break.

It also hasn’t helped matters as the Bulls try to figure out what’s ailing them.

Coach Fred Hoiberg told reporters after Sunday’s loss that he isn’t certain if shutting Butler down for games this week against the Raptors and Boston Celtics is the solution. He called Butler’s heel injury a day-to-day situation. Wade’s wrist injury appears to be more serious.

“Jimmy knows his body pretty well,” Hoiberg said, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. “He’s comfortable that if he sits these next two days, he’ll feel significantly better.”

According to the Sun-Times, Butler — who last played in a blowout loss to the Phoenix Suns on Feb. 10 — wants to play if possible.

“If I can suit up, I feel like I have to do that,” Butler told reporters.

As the Bulls deal with trying to play short-handed, the Raptors — who have lost two straight and six of their last 10 games — are dealing with their own issues.

Toronto (32-23) watched a 16-point fourth-quarter lead disappear in a 102-101 loss to the Detroit Pistons on Sunday. Now they’ll travel to Chicago looking to snap a 10-game losing streak to the Bulls.

As much as the Bulls are hurting, the Raptors’ defensive problems keep hurting them with Sunday’s collapse a prime example that Toronto is still trying to work through their inability to stop opposing teams.

Raptors guard Kyle Lowry made it clear that was evident in Sunday’s loss after being asked by reporters what had gone wrong in the final 12 minutes against the Pistons.

But Lowry, who told reporters he wanted to remain professional in talking about his team’s issues, seem to infer they extended beyond one bad quarter.

“(We) keep getting in the same situations over and over and not being successful,” Lowry told reporters. “Something’s got to give, something’s got to change.”

Toronto is still missing veteran forward Patrick Patterson, who sat out his eighth straight game Sunday with a knee injury. He has missed 14 of the Raptors last 23 games — a stretch when the Raptors are 7-7 with coach Dwane Casey using a variety of fill-ins for Patterson while his team continues to struggle with trying to protect leads.

“I’m starting to get worried, yeah,” Lowry told reporters, according to the Globe and Mail. “It’s not going the way we’re supposed to be going and things aren’t changing. So yeah, I’m starting to get worried.”