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Toronto Raptors forward Kawhi Leonard goes to the net during a game against Chicago Bulls, in Toronto, on Dec. 30, 2018.Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press

The Toronto Raptors eked out a sloppy and uncomfortably narrow 95-89 victory over the mediocre Chicago Bulls on Sunday, in a game with plenty of reminders that Kyle Lowry and Jonas Valanciunas are sorely missed.

Kawhi Leonard led Toronto with 27 points, while Pascal Siakam contributed 20 points and 12 rebounds as the Raptors overcame poor shooting and opponents who nearly lulled them to sleep with their grinding pace.

Lowry, the Raps all-star point guard, sat out a third successive game with back pain. It was his seventh absence – during which the team was 4-3 – in the Raptors’ past eight games. However, coach Nick Nurse said he believes the veteran backcourt leader is nearing a return.

Valanciunas remained sidelined, too, which continued to hurt the Raps at centre. The seven-footer is in the midst of a recovery that is expected to take about four weeks, following his Dec. 13 thumb surgery.

“Yeah, we miss both those guys, without a doubt. They’re kind of our two seniors on the team," Nurse said. "They’ve been here longest of anybody. This is kind of their team. We miss a little bit of that.

"But it’s okay. Let’s not go crazy. We got a win in an NBA game and we’ll take it and move on and try to play with a little more pizzazz the next game.”

Injuries have forced the Raptors to use 13 different starting lineups this season. Sunday’s included Leonard, Siakam, Serge Ibaka, Danny Green and Fred VanVleet, who went through warmups with his lower back wrapped in an ice pack.

It was the Raptors’ first home game since Dec. 21. The team was fresh off an embarrassing 116-87 loss to the Magic in Orlando on Friday. It had been the team’s most lopsided defeat of the season, one in which Toronto made a franchise-worst 26.2 per cent of its two-point attempts.

The Raptors' woes continued Sunday.

Toronto had walloped Chicago 122-83 in their first meeting this season. But the Raptors opened this one in frazzled fashion, hitting just five of their first 17 shots while turning the ball over five times. The Raps tied their lowest-scoring quarter of the season with 14 points, and trailed the Bulls by six, making the 13th-place team in the Eastern Conference look like a defensive juggernaut. Nurse implored his team to move the ball up the floor with quicker pace.

The only upbeat moments early on Sunday came from the comical pregame pushing and shoving antics that ensue every time the fuzzy red Raptors mascot encounters animated Bulls centre Robin Lopez.

In the second quarter, the Raptors shot a slightly more effective 38.5 per cent – despite numerous clunkers from the scoreless VanVleet and Ibaka. The Raps wrestled back the lead before halftime, albeit just by one point. The pace was improving.

Both Ibaka and VanVleet began to make shots in the second half and the Raptors maintained a wobbly hold on a slim lead.

In the fourth quarter, Toronto began to peel away.

Toronto’s record improved to 27-11, but the team never dominated. It shot 37 per cent from the floor to Chicago’s 41.2 per cent. Lauri Markkanen led Chicago with 18 points and 10 boards as the Bulls fell to 10-27.

Through games played up to Nov. 30, the Raptors had the highest field-goal percentage in the NBA (49.4 per cent). Going into Sunday, the Raps were shooting just 44.3 per cent from the floor in December, sixth-lowest in the league.

The victory gives the Raptors a 35-10 record at home in 2018, matching the franchise record for wins in a calendar year. The Raps finished December 8-7.

The Raptors next face the 18-19 Utah Jazz in Toronto on Tuesday night. Then it’s off to San Antonio to face the Spurs and former Raptor DeMar DeRozan.

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