NBA

Raptors-Bulls Preview

The Toronto Raptors headed into last year's All-Star break with a nearly identical record as this season's mark and crumbled following the time off before losing in the first round of the playoffs.

They're determined not to let that happen again.

Toronto looks to avoid dropping an eighth straight meeting with Chicago when it visits the slumping Bulls on Friday night.

More from FoxSports

The Raptors (35-17) had a 14 1/2-game lead atop the Atlantic Division with a 36-17 record before the 2015 All-Star Game and seemed poised to make a deep playoff run. They dropped nine of their first 11 after the break, though, and were swept by Washington in the opening round of the postseason.

Toronto, which hosted this year's All-Star Game, is involved in a much tighter division race this season with Boston only 4 1/2 games back, and it knows it can't afford a similar slump that followed the break last year.

The Raptors had won three straight and 14 of 15 before falling 117-112 at Minnesota on Feb. 10.

"The guys understand what we need to do, especially the guys who were here last year," said DeMar DeRozan, who scored a season high-tying 35 points against the Timberwolves. "We're all playing for something. This time around, we're not letting none of our success get to our head. We still have a long way to go."

Toronto didn't make any moves prior to Thursday's trade deadline, something coach Dwane Casey said instills more confidence within the locker room. Former Bull James Johnson is set to return after missing the previous four, and DeMarre Carroll, who has sat out the last 17 with a knee injury, hopes to return soon.

"We understand what happened last year, but this is a new year and a new team," Casey said. "We can learn from last year, but we can't dwell over last year. We have to worry about Friday night, not even the process of making the playoffs. That'll all play itself out."

Toronto hasn't beaten Chicago since Dec. 31, 2013, and it blew a 12-point halftime lead in a 115-113 loss Jan. 3 in the most recent matchup. Jimmy Butler scored 40 of his 42 points in the second half, including a 3-pointer with 31 seconds left that put the Bulls ahead for good.

Butler, though, has been out the last four because of a sprained left knee and is expected to miss at least a couple more weeks. The Bulls (27-26) haven't won since he went down and have dropped five straight after falling 106-95 at Cleveland on Thursday.

Chicago's only move at the trade deadline was dealing Kirk Hinrich to Atlanta in a three-team deal despite rumors that it was shopping Pau Gasol. The veteran big man scored 14 points against the Cavs and Derrick Rose finished with 28 for the Bulls, who are tied with Charlotte for seventh in the East but are only a half-game up on ninth-place Detroit.

''We've just got to stay together through the good, the bad and the ugly - and it's the ugly right now,'' Rose said. ''I'm going to keep controlling what I can control. We're trying to fight to be in the playoffs.''

Rose sat out the last meeting because of right hamstring tendinitis but scored 20 in a 104-97 win over the Raptors on Dec. 28. Gasol finished with 22 in that contest to help overcome 28 from Kyle Lowry, who had 22 points and 10 assists against the Bulls last month.