The Toronto Raptors saw their three-game winning streak snapped tonight at the hands of the visiting Chicago Bulls. The Bulls used a strong first quarter to take the lead and never really looked back. Toronto did manage to get within one point with seconds remaining, but the Bulls locked down on D and finished with a 94 to 92 victory.
The first quarter was really the key piece of this loss for Toronto as they came out flat on D, and gave up 31 first quarter points to a typically low-scoring Bulls squad. The Raptors did get a chunk of that back in the second quarter, but again they dug themselves a hole that they needed a big fourth quarter to get out of.
And while Toronto did mange to drop 30 points in that final Q, it wasn't enough as noted, as the Dinos couldn't convert on a few key opportunities down the stretch. A Kyle Lowry three-pointer with a minute and a half left cut Chicago's lead to two points, and an Amir Johnson three-point play eventually got Toronto within one point and indeed, it looked like the Dinos had the momentum. But Toronto went with a DeMar DeRozan iso play out of a timeout with 10 seconds left to play, and DeRozan was blocked by Jimmy Butler essentially ending it. DeRozan did get off a halfcourt shot with time expiring but it wasn't close and the Bulls grab their 28th win on the season, and creep ever so close now to Toronto in the Eastern Conference standings.
DeMar DeRozan led Toronto with 32 points but he was fairly quiet down the stretch. Kyle Lowry was solid all game as usual, and as noted, made some huge plays late to get Toronto within striking distance. Other notable contributions included Tyler Hansbrough and Amir Johnson off the bench, who brought the toughness off the bench the team desperately needed after getting pushed around early and often.
For the Bulls, Joakim Noah had only 8 points and 4 rebounds but an incredible 13 assists and he got lots of help from guys like Carlos Boozer (20 points) and Jimmy Butler (16, 6 and 6.)
Oh, and DJ Augustin had his revenge with a huge 19 points off the pine.
This hopefully is a learning experience for Toronto as they'll need to match the Bulls level of physical intensity come playoff time. This match was VERY physical with 48 fouls doled out and six technical fouls.
The Raps now get a day to collect their thoughts before hosting the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday.