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Butler probable, but injury-riddled Bulls remain short-handed

Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade look on from the bench during the game against the Atlanta Hawks at Philips Arena last month. Georgia. Butler is expected to return Tuesday night, but Wade remains out. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

A 10-game winning streak might suggest the Bulls have established a certain swagger when it comes to the Toronto Raptors.

But saddled with injuries and in the midst of a three-game losing streak that capped a 2-4 road trip, extending their string of victories over Toronto that dates back to 2014 seems to have just the opposite effect.

Especially for the Bulls, who despite likely getting leading scorer Jimmy Butler back Tuesday night, will look to extend the run of success while being anything but at full strength.

“It’s even harder every time you play them because they understand they lost a couple against us,” forward Taj Gibson said after the Bulls’ morning shoot around Tuesday. “And (winning) is extremely hard every time.”

Being short-handed won’t help the Bulls, who dropped to three games under .500 with Sunday’s 117-89 loss to the Timberwolves.

Guard Dwyane Wade and forwards Nikola Mirotic and Paul Zipser will not play Tuesday, coach Fred Hoiberg announced Tuesday morning.

Wade will miss his second straight game with an injury to his right wrist. Hoiberg said that a Monday MRI exam didn’t indicate any long-term damage, but said the veteran guard isn’t ready to play yet. Mirotic (back spasms) and Zipser (left ankle tendinitis) have also been ruled out. Zipser is in a walking boot, Hoiberg said, and likely won’t play again until after the All-Star break. Mirotic has shown progress and may be able to return on Thursday against the Boston Celtics.

Butler, one of four players to miss Sunday’s blowout loss in Minneapolis, is likely to play Tuesday after missing four of the Bulls last five games. Butler worked out Monday and participated in Tuesday morning’s shoot around. Although Hoiberg won’t put Butler on a minutes restriction Tuesday night, the injury is one that will continue to be monitored.

“He’s got a little bit of pain – there’s no doubt about that, especially being on the bottom of his foot,” Hoiberg said. “A lot of it will be based on feel, how’s he’s doing.”

The Bulls will attempt snap the three-game skid in a week filled with tough tests starting Tuesday against the Raptors and continuing Thursday against the Celtics. The Raptors acquired Serge Ibaka on Tuesday from the Orlando Magic on Tuesday morning as they attempt to make a surge up the Eastern Conference standings. Although Ibaka won’t play Tuesday night, Gibson said focus will be vital over the next few days before the Bulls head into the All-Star break after Thursday’s game against Boston.

“It’s tough, because a lot of times guys tend to dwell off and set their minds on the All-Star break (and) being around family,” Gibson said Tuesday morning. “We just try to keep guys’ heads level, try to keep guys’ heads still into the fight, try to end on the right path. Because you know the second half is even harder. These next two games are important to us, and we try to instill that into the young guys.”

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