The good news for the Toronto Raptors is they have been playing better of late – in the two games since being embarrassed by the Oklahoma City Thunder last week.
The bad news is Toronto's next opponents are the Chicago Bulls, who have dominated the Raptors like no other team over the past several years. When the two teams meet at Air Canada Centre Tuesday night, the Bulls will be looking to rack up their 12th consecutive victory over the Raptors, a streak that dates back to the 2013-14 season.
"It should be high on our radar," Toronto coach Dwane Casey said Monday after the team's practice, referring to Chicago's spate of good luck against the Raptors.
The last time Toronto managed to beat Chicago was Dec. 31, 2013, at the United Center, when Toronto came out on top, 85-79, in a defensive battle.
Since then, the Bulls have won their past 11 encounters, including two this season in Chicago – a 123-118 overtime victory on Jan. 7 and a 105-94 decision on Feb. 14.
Although Chicago's dominance has caught Casey's attention, the streak of 11 straight losses only ranks No. 7 on the Toronto futility list.
The team's longest such streak is 16 consecutive setbacks to the Miami Heat that unfolded between March 28, 2010, and Nov. 2, 2015.
Toronto also dropped 15 straight games, again against the Bulls, in a slide that began on Dec. 18, 2002, and ran through Dec. 29, 2006. The Phoenix Suns recorded 14 wins in a row over Toronto from 2004 through 2011 (the Raptors only play Western Conference teams twice a year), while the Indiana Pacers managed 13 straight from 1995 to 1998. And the Utah Jazz (2005-11) and the Atlanta Hawks (1995-98) have each clocked 12 consecutive wins.
Curiously enough, Chicago's success against Toronto is not the Bulls' longest active winning streak; that distinction belongs to the Philadelphia 76ers, who have lost their past 12 to Chicago.
And the longest active winning steak in the NBA against a particular opponent is the 16 wins the Cleveland Cavaliers have piled up against the Orlando Magic.
Although the Raptors are a lock for the playoffs – with a record of 41-29 heading into the final 12 games of the regular season – and the Bulls (33-37) are battling for their postseason lives, Casey is hard-pressed to explain Chicago's continued dominance of Toronto.
"You tell me and we'll both know," he said, noting that both teams have undergone a lot of roster changes over the course of the streak but Toronto continues to find ways to lose during head-to-head confrontations.
"There's been games where we've had leads, there's been games where they've spanked us," Casey said. "There's been close games, middle range – all kinds of games we've played against them. We've tried different schemes, different things. So it's time for us to really get that to stop.
"This game has a little bit more significance for us, a sense of urgency for us, than normal."
Casey said he was feeling more optimistic about Toronto's chances to end the streak on Tuesday based on his team's past two outings – a victory over the Indiana Pacers on Sunday and Friday's win over the Detroit Pistons.
The Raptors' defence tightened significantly in those games, holding opponents to a combined field goal percentage of 38.
In limiting both the Pistons and the Pacers to fewer than 100 points in each game, Toronto's record climbed to 20-4 when opponents fail to reach the century mark in scoring.
Casey said newcomer P.J. Tucker, the rugged forward who joined the Raptors lineup along with Serge Ibaka at the NBA trade deadline, has proven his worth defensively coming off the bench.
"He shows up well in all of our scenarios, and it starts on the defensive end," Casey said. "He just sets the tone. He and Serge both – they think defensively, they talk defence, they help guys get in the right spots. They turn up the heat on their teammates.
"You've got to have that if you want to be a good defensive team."
Tucker's plus-minus rating over the past two games is a plus-22 when he has been on he floor.