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Lingering sore right hip forces Luol Deng to sit out game

Chicago Bulls' Luol Deng drives between Orlando Magic's Beno Udrih front Tobias Harris during first half an NBA basketball game

Chicago Bulls' Luol Deng drives between Orlando Magic's Beno Udrih, front, and Tobias Harris during the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, April 5, 2013, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Cherney)

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Updated: April 7, 2013 11:13PM



AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — Even with Joakim Noah (plantar fasciitis in right foot) back in the starting lineup and Marco Belinelli (strained abdomen) back in a reserve role Sunday, the Bulls were still limping their way to the regular-season finish line.

The latest player to join Derrick Rose as a spectator in the locker room during the game was Luol Deng, sidelined with sore right hip.

The All-Star forward had limped around with the injury for almost a week, and it got to the point where it was time to rest it, especially with the Bulls playing five games in seven days starting on Tuesday, when they host Toronto.

Asked if Deng might miss more than just the game against the Pistons, coach Tom Thibodeau said he wasn’t sure yet. But it sounded as if the team was being cautious with Deng, especially with all the minutes he has clocked.

Deng leads the NBA in minutes played, averaging 39.2 per game. Kevin Durant was second at 38.6.

Thibodeau said Deng’s injury occurred “over a period of time.’’ The team is being “somewhat cautionary, just trying to clean things up this time of year,’’ he said.

The Bulls also were without Rip Hamilton (back) and Taj Gibson (left knee), with Gibson the closest to a return.

“Taj is doing more, and he’s actually doing well, so that’s encouraging,’’ Thibodeau said.

But being bodies down also meant that Thibodeau started a lineup that featured Nate Robinson, Kirk Hinrich, Jimmy Butler, Noah and Carlos Boozer against the Pistons. It was the first time he started that group.

Old man river

At age 35, Nazr Mohammed spent the first four months being used mostly in matchup situations. But with Noah missing eight games, Mohammed was forced into the starting lineup, and he showed that he can be more than a specialty player.

“He’s played very well, and it’s not the individual play, which is obviously very good, but it’s the team play,’’ Thibodeau said. “The team has functioned very well with him on the floor. That’s really how I judge a player. [Mohammed has] demonstrated he understands what we’re trying to get done. He’s shown great veteran leadership. There are great subtleties to his game, so he’s done a very good job. We’ll see where we go when we have everyone back.’’



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