The Chicago Bulls have the Toronto Raptors' number.
The Raptors fell 113-104 to the Bulls last night extending their losing streak to 11 games against Chicago. In fact, the Raptors have not beaten the Bulls since December 6, 2002.
In a game that saw Toronto return to some of their old ways, the Raptors simply couldn't get over the hump after falling behind by as many as 23 points to the Bulls. Poor perimeter defence and rebounding allowed the Bulls to score at will torching the Raptors hitting 11 of their 18 three point attempts.
Both teams came out scorching in the first quarter hitting almost every shot they took but the Bulls managed to clamp down on defence in the second quarter and the Raptors did not. This turned out to be the breaking point. Even with a heroic comeback spearheaded by Chris Bosh and the unlikely candidate of Jalen Rose, the Raps didn't have enough left in the tank and withered in the games' final minutes.
An aptly titled section as this was indeed that, especially in the second quarter. The Raptors allowed the anemic Bulls' offence to outscore them 30 to 10 in the second quarter and shoot 52% from the field and an unreal 61% from beyond the arc overall. The Bulls also outrebounded Toronto 40-32, and of these 40, several were key in stifling any momentum Toronto was attempting to gather. All in all the Bulls simply played a better game then Toronto and made the plays they needed down the stretch to win this game.
I must say that I was quite concerned going into this game and not simply because of the possible hangover from the incident that shall henceforth be known as the "Vince Slap." No, to put it simply, the Raptors do not match up well with the Bulls.
The Raptors have a dearth of big bodies and therefore players like Michael Sweetney, Othella Harrington, Darius Songaila and Andres Nocionni give the team nothing but headaches with their aggressive style. We simply don't have the size to contend with these players as witnessed by the complete and utter uselessness of Aaron Williams, Rafael Araujo and even CV Smooth on this evening. But even more disastrous to the Raptors given their lack of perimeter defence, is the Bulls abundance of small, quick and atheletic guards. The Raptors don't have the foot speed and defensive skills at this point to match up with the Ben Gordons, Chris Duhons and Kirk Hinrichs of the league and these 3 continuously carved Toronto's defence up finding open players resulting in so many successful 3 pointers. Furthermore, the Bulls are indeed an extremely streaky team in terms of offence...and unfortunately the Raptors ran into the hot hand. Even on several occasions when the Raptors did get a hand in Gordon and Hinrich's faces, they still drained their shots.
More then any streak shooting or matchup issues however this game came down to defence...and the Raptors simply did not display the defensive intensity needed to win this game while the Bulls managed to get stops when they needed to. The play that perhaps illustrated this the best occured in the second quarter. With Chicago running its offense, Othella Harrington found himself open at the top of the free throw line. The pass came to him but he dropped the ball. However Toronto's defence was so slow on rotation that he had the opportunity to pick up the ball, size up the rim, and still drain the shot uncontested. Absolutely inexcusable. In fact if Toronto had even kept the Bulls to 20 POINTS in that second quarter this might have been an entirely different finish. Coming back from such a deficit is extremely taxing and the Raptors inability to excute down the stretch after getting within a basket of the Bulls may have reflected this. However what is an outrage is the lack of touches Chris Bosh received during that time period. While Jalen had a great game offensively (and was actually a main reason the Raps were even in this game at the end), he still at times clogs up the offence too much and is a real liability on defense. Therefore the offence HAS to run through CB4 more often, especially with Mike James making good on his Space Mountain nickname. James forced his game too much and even though he had 13 assists (although I have NO IDEA how), didn't hit a single three point attempt and didn't go to the free throw line once.
Wednesday's contest with the Bobcats now becomes a "must-win" for Toronto. The Bobcats with their many injuries are the least talented team currently in the league and Toronto must take advantage to get back on track. With too many opportunities in January and even February, the Raptors can't let any more of these winnable games go to waste.