“Hey man, she told me she was 20.”
Raptors 106, Bulls 113 – Box

The Raptors proved to be tough nuts to crack against Chicago for the second straight game. The Raptors lucked out by missing two starters in Andrea Bargnani and Jose Calderon (Oh no he didn’t!), as it put the motivated duo of Ed Davis and Jerryd Bayless into the lineup. The sub-turned-starters were called into action on both ends of the floor and didn’t disappoint. Jerryd Bayless gave Derrick Rose something to think about in every quarter of the game, and dropped 26 to the MVP candidate’s 36, which were all needed for the Bulls to take this one. Ed Davis having broken a sweat even before tip-off chimed in with a tidy 17 points and 11 rebounds, and it was his frontcourt partner Amir Johnson’s interior defense that gave the Raptors the inspired start.

The Raptors defense was fantastic to start the game, the Bulls had to work very hard at the top of the circle to get their two-man games going, and whenever Taj Gibson or Carlos Boozer thought they had seams to the rim on the rolls, Davis and Johnson provided cover. Matching the Bulls for defense and sharing the ball on the other end had the Raptors up 6 midway through the first. Tom Thibodeau adjusted to DeRozan canning a couple jumpers by sticking the taller Luol Deng on him, immediately causing the Raptors guard problems. The Raptors offense suffered under increased Chicago defensive pressure, and turnovers ensued, catapulting the Bulls to a 14-2 run to end the first. The Raptors only shot 28% in the first, including missing their last six attempts. Usually that kind of incompetency against the #1 team in the East means the game’s already over, not so much last night as the defense the Raptors played in the first (held Bulls to 43%) kept them in the game down six.

I don’t quite know what the situation with Amir Johnson’s injury is, if you watch the game he’s as immobile as Maurizio after he undoes the belt and lumps himself on the couch. Offensively last night, he stood near the elbow area and drained the jumpers Chicago was more than happy to give him. The problem was his rebounding: only 5 in 34 minutes. I’m not going to slag him for that because of his injury, but it was one of reasons why Chicago dominated the offensive glass in key stretches of the game including the second quarter. Triano tried to bring in Evans to help with the boarding efforts and expectedly, the Bulls’ length was too much for the brute to overcome. After the game, Reggie appeared frustrated and when reporters questioned him about his bad game, he bit off the microphone, scurried into the corner and gnawed at it for half an hour. A word on Amir Johnson, I commend him for playing and showing spirit despite injury, but is it all a bit too heroic for a team headed for 60 losses. I sure hope he’s not aggravating something which is going to bite him next year. Props to Johnson though, this guy’s the Anti-Turkoglu – he loves fatigue like Liston loves differential calculus.

Leandro Barbosa supplied the punch (the scoring, not the juice) off the bench with 18 points, unfortunately he was the only Raptors reserve to score in the 35-18 Bulls bench win. Go look at the box score, there are more zeros in there than Colangelo’s next contract. The Raptors were down 10 at the break in a hotly contested game. The individual battles were simmering: Bayless vs. Rose, Rose vs. Deng, Gibson vs. Davis, Boozer vs. Johnson, even Asik vs. Evans wasn’t too bad to watch. The best one had to be between me and Mrs. Arse who can’t seem to understand that when you’re recording two shows on the PVR, you have to watch one of them. The Raptors won the third and fourth quarters, in the former Jerryd Bayless starred scoring 14 points, often frustrating Rose by doing things he wasn’t expecting, like scoring. Great players hate it when someone does to them what they do to others, and there were a couple drives and jumpers where Bayless scored at the tail end of the shot-clock under pressure, something Rose is used to doing.

Just as the first quarter had ended in a dry spell caused by an increase in Chicago’s fluctuating defense, so did the third. Missed jumpers from James Johnson (proving a far more capable offensive point-forward more than anything else) caused the Raptors grief and contributed to Chicago’s 9-1 run to end the frame. Derrick Rose had a part to play in almost every play in that run which turned a game tied at 74 to an 85-73 lead for the hosts. The officiating in that quarter was suspect, the referees were going by reputation and team records instead of what was happening on the court. Several Raptors drives were met with contact without the accompanying whistle, whereas on the other end the whistle even came before the mild contact, Jay Triano picking up a technical. Leo Rautins had something to say about that, I don’t recall what it was but it was idiotic, something like, “I don’t have a problem with the official not calling a foul a foul, as long as he doesn’t also call a foul a foul when it’s not a foul when there’s a non-call foul.” WTF man? Shut up already, go away, he’s like a bad neighbor who blasts shitty music on his porch and you can’t do anything about it because of some stupid zoning law.

Here’s a crazy stat: the Raptors shot 12-16 (75%) in the fourth quarter and managed to lose the game. Bench players who play extended minutes tend to show it in the fourth, and Bayless (38 minutes) and Davis (40 minutes), showed it. Rose was getting past Bayless with far less resistance than he had in the first, and Davis was getting out-positioned by Taj Gibson. Barbosa had 8 typical Barbosa points, and Amir Johnson was left open again to hit elbow jumpers, which kept the game close. When it came time to make a stop, the Raptors did except they couldn’t finish the possession with the rebound. Kyle Korver making them pay with a three, and then a last-second jumper off a broken play. The Bulls’ celebration after Korver’s jumper saw Brian Scalabrine try to high-five Derrick Rose, who didn’t recognize him and had him arrested for trespassing.

No complains about this game, it was a great one to watch if you like hard-nosed basketball, some good one-on-one battles and copious amounts of alcohol. The Bulls are proud owners of the league’s highest ranked defense, the Raptors shot 50.6% against that. On the season Chicago allows only 42.9% shooting, so the Raptors offense didn’t suffer without Bargnani and Calderon, arguably two of their better offensive players. Defensively, it wasn’t until the second half that the Bulls got their way on offense against a stretched Raptors rotation which even had Julian Wright playing minutes. The Raptors lie on the other end of the defensive spectrum, and with Amir Johnson not contributing due to injury, the task of stopping a Rose-powered revenge-seeking Bulls juggernaut was too difficult.

It’s a nice day out, might even shoot some hoops.