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Bulls’ deep bench comes in handy

Luol Deng splits Pistons defenders Will Bynum (left) Damien Wilkins as he drives basket second quarter. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

Luol Deng splits Pistons defenders Will Bynum (left) and Damien Wilkins as he drives to the basket in the second quarter. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

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Bulls at

The facts: 7, CSN+, 1000-AM.

Updated: February 11, 2012 8:20AM

The game Monday against the Pistons was the first of three on consecutive nights for the Bulls, who visit Minnesota on Tuesday before returning to the United Center to host the hapless Wizards on Wednesday night. The Bulls will play five games in the next six nights and nine in the next 12.

The Bulls haven’t played back-to-back-to-back games since the last lockout-shortened season of 1998-99.

“It’s going to catch up with you,’’ forward Luol Deng said. ‘‘It’s doing the little things. But it’s all a mind-set. Everybody’s got to go through it. We’re going to struggle some with energy, but that’s where the bench comes in and helps each other. But, like I said, we really got to lock in and focus on taking it a game at a time. We can’t look at the seventh game from now.”

Interestingly enough, teams playing back-to-back-to-back games are 6-0 this season. The Hawks were playing their third in a row when they routed the Bulls in Atlanta on Saturday night.

“It doesn’t surprise me,” coach Tom Thibodeau said. “There’s a lot of things that go into it also because usually the opponent is in the midst of a lot of games themselves.”

Thibodeau often is asked about how he’ll manage minutes.

“It helps that you have a deep bench, and then of course you have to wait and see how things unfold in the game,” he said.

Rip, C.J. updates

Neither starting shooting guard Rip Hamilton nor backup point guard C.J. Watson played against the Pistons.

Hamilton reaggravated an existing groin injury after playing against Detroit on Jan. 4. It was his third missed game since.

Watson sprained his elbow during a home victory over the Grizzlies on Jan. 1 and has missed four games. He said he’s unlikely to play before the weekend.

Boozer would pay

Carlos Boozer on Derrick Rose: “You really can’t describe Derrick. You just have to watch him play. If I was a fan and I’m enjoying basketball in a different country and I was coming here to see a few games, I’d be sure to come to Chicago to see him play. Personally, I would spend money to watch him play. When I retire and he’s still playing, I’m going to pay money to come back and watch him play.”

Contributing: Seth Gruen

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