The Toronto Raptors got their third-straight win tonight, grinding out a tough affair with the Chicago Bulls. The Bulls led for most of this one but the Dinos used another impressive fourth-quarter rally to steal the W.
As many of our readers remarked in tonight's liveblog, this was one of those games the Toronto Raptors traditionally lose, either because they just never played up to the level of their opponents, or even when they did, and snatched a lead, they would inevitably crumble down the stretch and hand it right back.
No such thing tonight though as despite trailing by about six points for what seemed like the first 40 minutes, the Raps staged a furious fourth-quarter rally, buoyed by the bench play of Greivis Vasquez and Patrick Patterson, and held on for the win.
I say held on because despite a 12 point lead at one stage with about five minutes left to go, a sequence of costly errors got the Bulls within three points with about a minute and a half left. Amir Johnson turned the ball over on an inbounds play, gave up a costly "And One" situation, and DeMar DeRozan started bricking free-throws and suddenly you could hear a collective "hear we go again" coming from the lips of Raptors' fans.
But this was the new version of the Dinos, and despite giving up a big chunk of their lead, kept battling all the way to the end, ensuring the win.
Game MVP goes to Jonas Valanciunas who hit some huge free-throws to seal the deal and finished with 15 points, 9 rebounds, two steals and two blocks. He was the most consistent Raptor on the floor tonight, keeping his club in it as the usual go-to scoring options like DeRozan and Kyle Lowry, struggled. (They were a combined 7 for 22.)
On the Bulls side, you almost felt for this club because despite a lack of offensive talent, they hung around, and in fact led, for most of this game thanks to some stellar defensive work that held Toronto to 35 per cent shooting from the field until late. Chicago got in the passing lanes and were extremely physical with the Raps in a game that saw some dubious calls going in both directions.
In the end though, it's win number 8 out of the past 11 games, a pretty impressive feat. for this traditionally forlorn bunch but let's hope they don't celebrate too much on this New Year's Eve. They've got one of their toughest tests of the year tomorrow night back in Toronto against the Indiana Pacers.