Raptors 101, Bulls 102 – Box

Can you get any closer to winning a game without actually pulling it off? That one hurt a little bit. Yes, you want to lose as many games as possible to secure a better draft pick, blah blah blah. But, when you have the chance to beat the team with the best record in the league in their own barn, you want that win.

Still, a close loss to an elite team on the road, on the second half of a back-to-back. This would have been the type of game last year`s team would have checked out of sometime soon after the opening tip. Granted, there was no Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah was ejected before halftime, but this Bulls team has a pretty decent record without DRose. Their strength lies in the fact that they have quality at every position except the 2.

Once again, it was the defense of the Raptors that stood out. Especially one James Johnson, who was the was the best player on the floor for either team on this night. He just plays at a higher level against his former team, which is promising but disappointing at the same time. If he can play this way against the Bulls, why can`t he be a defensive gamechanger all the time? Unlike previous Bulls games, Johnson had a solid, if not spectacular offensive game, only tarnished by his burning desire to unsuccessfully deliver the deciding baskets of the game. He`s getting better, James Johnson, and if people are not as excited about his potential as they are for a DeMar DeRozan, they may be missing out. The way he blocked Carlos Boozer`s shot, that releases from pretty much behind his head, is eye-opening.

Yes, DeMar DeRozan has been on a nice scoring streak recently, but there was a fluidity to the offense that a more versatile player like Gary Forbes brings to the table that can`t be overlooked. With DeMar it feels like when he gets the ball, you get one of two results. He either tries to score if there`s an oppurtunity, or he dribbles the ball on the perimeter for a bit and then passes it away. With Forbes, he`s got a little point guard in him that every good guard should have. Let`s make this clear, Gary Forbes is not the talent DeMar DeRozan is. But, his style helps players around him better, and DeRozan right now doesn`t. Without DeRozan dominating the ball, you saw Forbes and Johnson hook up with the bigs for easy buckets. It was nice to see Johnson feed Ed Davis on the break for a powerful dunk. You think Demar, Jerryd Bayless or the departed Leandro Barbosa would have made that pass?

When Jose Calderon looks for his offense, this team immediately becomes a dangerous one. It`s just baffling why he can`t do this more consistently. Perhaps after years of complacency, old habits die hard. These kind of games seem to come against better teams where the spotlight shines brighter. He almost sabotaged Linsanity at it`s peak with a great performance against Knicks. His highest scoring game this year was 30 against the Lakers. There`s no reason why he can`t dominate the majority of the league that isn`t as good as these teams. Selfishness is bad, except when you`re a guy who`s one of the best shooters in the league on a team that struggles on offense.

The only worry about the way this team is overachieving is that it may be a product of the coach`s intensity, and as we know, guys like this can have positive short-term impact but eventually lose the room. Dwane Casey doesn`t strike me as that guy, but you never know. By the time this team is decent, maybe even as early as next year, you hope that player`s continue to give that same effort and respect for their coach. More talent with this current compete level will turn these kind of games into convincing victories.