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Raptors-Bulls Preview

AP - Sports

Kyle Lowry has been linked to trade reports in recent weeks. If he continues to play this well, however, the Toronto Raptors might have a hard time letting him go.

Lowry will try to continue his hot stretch and lead the Raptors to an eighth win in 11 tries Tuesday night when they visit the Chicago Bulls.

After a 6-12 start, the Raptors (13-15) have been playing much better during a 7-3 stretch, which includes a 99-77 win in Chicago on Dec. 14. Lowry has been a crucial part of Toronto's surge and recorded a season-high 32 points along with 11 assists in a 115-100 home win over New York on Saturday to complete a home-and-home sweep.

"He's playing with such force and such confidence," coach Dwane Casey said. "He's been playing the game the right way and he's been playing lights out. It's really good for Kyle and I'm happy for him."

Despite having his name come up in trade rumors, Lowry is averaging 22.4 points over his last five games while going 14 of 30 from 3-point range and posting a 4.6 assist-to-turnover ratio.

Lowry, whose contract expires at the end of the season, is averaging career bests of 15.8 points and 7.3 assists.

"It is what it is," Lowry said of the trade speculation. "I'm not really worried about it. I've said it 50 million times and I'm going to say it 50 more: Until something happens I'm a Raptor and I'm going to play for the Raptors and I'm going to play hard for the Raptors."

Lowry was 7 of 14 for 16 points in the win over Chicago earlier this month, but struggled in a 96-80 loss to the Bulls in Toronto on Nov. 15, scoring six points on 3-of-15 shooting.

The Bulls (12-17) have won three of four despite being without Luol Deng due to a sore left Achilles. However, they're just 1-5 in their last six home games after starting 6-1. They're averaging 78.2 points and 36.7 percent shooting in the last five losses at the United Center.

With Deng sidelined for a fifth straight contest, Jimmy Butler scored a season-high 26 points in Monday's 95-91 win in Memphis.

"I'm getting real comfortable," said Butler, who has missed 12 games due to injury. "I sat down with a few of the vets, and they just talked to me and told me to play my game and have fun. When you have fun, everything else takes care of itself."

While Deng is considered day-to-day, coach Tom Thibodeau was on the sideline Monday night after missing the team's morning shootaround to attend his father's funeral in Connecticut.

"Our family, once I saw they were good, I felt good about (coaching)," Thibodeau said.

Perimeter defense has been a key part of Chicago's last three victories, with opponents being held to 22.5 percent shooting from beyond the arc.

The Raptors are hitting 41.8 percent of their 3-pointers over their last five games with Terrence Ross going 18 for 31.

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