The Bulls are headed for the playoffs, but they are compiling an impressive miss list this season.
They're a combined 5-1 against Eastern Conference leaders Miami and New York, and have won three of four against potential first-round playoff opponent Brooklyn.
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At the same time, the Bulls keep losing home games to the league's worst teams. The latest example came Tuesday at the United Center, when they fell behind Toronto 18-3 at the start and came up short with a furious rally to lose 101-98. They've also lost to New Orleans, Charlotte, Phoenix and Cleveland at the UC.
Richard Hamilton was a surprise participant, but otherwise the Bulls played without Luol Deng, Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson and Derrick Rose. As usual, coach Tom Thibodeau accepted no excuses.
"You can choose how you're going to approach this," he said. "You can say, 'Hey, we've got injuries, we're down, new rotation, whatever.' But you want mentally tough people when you're facing adversity. We've got to be a lot tougher mentally and we've got to get the job done.
"Look, we've got to get right -- fast. Things will change quickly and they have. We went from playing pretty good basketball to we're struggling. We've got to get right."
That won't be easy with three of their top six players missing, not to mention Derrick Rose, who's been out all year recovering from knee surgery. They have five games left in the regular season.
With Hamilton and Marco Belinelli coming back from injuries, the Bulls seemed a couple steps slow against Toronto's athletic lineup featuring DeMar DeRozan (20 points), Rudy Gay (19), Kyle Lowry (13) and Terrence Ross (13).
"In fairness to Marco and Rip, they've been out an extended amount of time, so you expect some rust," Thibodeau said. "I though they did some good things out there, too. It was more of our collective effort to start. We have to start being sound fundamentally with our defense."
Jimmy Butler played all 48 minutes and scored 28 points, soaring past his previous career-high of 20. Butler also hit 10 of 12 shots from the field, knocked down all 3 of his 3-point attempts and added 7 rebounds.
"I'd rather not score at all and get a mark in the win column," Butler said. "I guess it feels good to put the ball in the basket a little bit, but I felt we all could have done a little bit more as a team to help win this game."
Nate Robinson added 22 points and Carlos Boozer scored 19, but neither player shot the ball particularly well.
Toronto led 91-75 with just over eight minutes remaining. The Bulls (42-35) got back in it with a 10-0 run, but didn't pull close until a Robinson 3-pointer and 2 Boozer free throws made it 99-97 with 16.8 seconds left. After DeRozan hit a pair of free throws to make it a 4-point game, Robinson went to the line, made the first and missed the second.
The rebound was tipped out of bounds, the officials watched the replay and called for a jump ball. The Raptors controlled the tip, but Gay collided with center Jonas Valanciunas. Boozer picked up the loose ball, threw it out to Robinson and it went through his hands. After avoiding a backcourt violation, Robinson's potential tying 3-pointer from just inside half court was well off.
"I took my eyes off the ball," Robinson said. "I saw Kirky (Hinrich) to my left wide open. So when Booz threw me the ball, he threw it fast, but I was in pass motion to throw it to Kirk and I took my eyes off it."