Luol Deng returned from a four-game absence but his efforts weren't enough as the Bulls scored under 80 for the third time this season, getting routed 99-77 by the Toronto Raptors.
Even with Deng back, the pattern for Chicago this season has been once they have gotten someone back from injury, someone else leaves with an ailment and the latest victim was Kirk Hinrich, who sat out with a sore back that stiffened up on him after Friday’s win over Milwaukee. That left the starting responsibilities to second-year guard Marquis Teague and D.J. Augustin, who was officially signed on Friday.
This did not help matters for the Bulls (9-13) as they were outscored 26-11 in the fourth period as they a tough stretch was capped off by another frustrating showing.
“I hate to blame it on fatigue,” coach Tom Thibodeau said. “We missed a lot of shots, but I thought we were still in striking distance for a while. When I took (Joakim) out, we lost too much ground. Like I said, I don’t want to use four (games) out of five nights as an excuse, we have to do better. The fourth quarter has to be our best quarter.”
Deng led the team with a game-high 17 points. Noah added a double-double of 10 points, 12 rebounds and Mike Dunleavy scored 14 points off the bench for the Bulls, who shot 36 percent from the field and surrendered 18 points on 15 turnovers.
“Losing sucks,” Noah said. “There’s no question about it. But it also shows people’s true colors. Who’s willing to keep fighting through the adversity or who’s going to say, ‘You know what? I don’t want any part of this and I’m just going to take bad shots and just not care at all about making winning plays and playing defense.’ So everybody has to stick together. Everybody has to jell and keep fighting together.”
That fight has come and gone for the Bulls with players in and out of the lineup. The team used its 10th different starting lineup against the Raptors and they've lost 10 of their last 13 games.
Kyle Lowry led a balanced attack for Toronto, scoring 16 points as the Raptors shot 48 percent from the field.
“I think we’re going through it right now, up and down with guys getting hurt,” Deng said. “We've had seasons here where everyone was healthy (to start) and at the end of the year, people got hurt. Hopefully, this year is the other way around. We just have to stay positive. I think we’re going to get better as the year goes along. Hopefully guys can stay healthy and it’s a long season. We've learned in the past, it’s who’s the healthiest and who has the best rhythm at the end of the year that’s, most of the time, going to win it.
“When things aren't going your way, you work harder and get things right,” he continued. “You can’t let it beat you up. You get in the gym, watch film, try harder until you get it right.”