Every day they move closer to Derrick Rose's return is a good one for the Bulls. But Friday might have been an exception.

With Carlos Boozer still recovering from a sore hamstring, the Bulls lost two more starters to injury before facing the Brooklyn Nets. Joakim Noah has a foot injury. Kirk Hinrich returned to Chicago to have a recurring elbow injury examined.

Without three starters, the Bulls predictably gave a game effort against the resurgent Nets but ultimately were doomed by a slow start and a poor finish in a 93-89 loss at Barclays Center.

They didn't quit. Taj Gibson played 48 minutes. Luol Deng played all but four seconds. Nate Robinson played 41 minutes. And Jimmy Butler played 40 minutes off the bench. But that doesn't mean much to coach Tom Thibodeau when they don't win.

''You can choose any excuse you want — guys are out. Guys are tried. Whatever,'' Thibodeau said after the Bulls dropped to 28-18. ''It's the NBA. You have to find a way to get it done, whatever the circumstances are.''

Though excuses are for losers, injuries are for real. Thibodeau has ''no idea'' when any of the injured players will be back.

The injury to Noah could be most problematic. Noah injured his right foot — not the left one that had given him problems previously. And he had no idea when he'd be back.

''I don't know,'' Noah said when asked if Bulls fans should be concerned about his injury. ''I want to be out there as soon as I can. I have to take care of this. It's been bothering me for a couple of games and I need to get this thing right.''

Thibodeau did his best to piece together a lineup. Nazr Mohammed started for Noah but played only eight minutes and scored four points. Thibodeau leaned on Deng (18 points), Marco Belinelli (18 points), Gibson (16 points, nine rebounds), Butler (12 points) and Robinson (12 points on 4-for-16 shooting, 11 assists) and nearly got the job done.