December 2002 is when it began and more than four years later it ended. A 15 game losing streak to the Bulls barely came to an end at the United Center. The Raptors outplayed the Bulls for the considerable part of the game but the lack of defense on either end, especially on the Raptors’, kept this game from being decided early. The Raptors defense is porous and anybody can score on it, let alone quick guards like Ben Gordon, Kirk Hinrick and Chris Duhon who exposed the lack of perimeter defense by driving to the lane at will and setting up Luol Deng (who I can’t believe is the subject of trade rumours) to the tune of 30 points on 15-23 FG. Deng’s ridiculous accuracy on jumpers kept the Bulls in this one for long stretches never allowing the Raptors to take a double digit lead throughout the second and third quarters. Deng had a Vinnie “The Microwave” Johnson type of game where he just seemed unstoppable and able to hit from any spot on the floor which tells me that the Bulls must be really serious about acquiring a big man if they’re actually considering trading this guy.
Bosh, Bargnani and Calderon provided the main scoring punches, but the offensive production was uniform across the board with the Raptors in cruise control and the Bulls seemingly unwilling to switch on obvious screens. Even Garbajosa chimed in with 4 triples which stretched the Bulls defense enough to allow Bosh to operate down low. Early on Bosh was getting everything he wanted in the paint and Leo Rautins pointed out that that was there all game long. Surprisingly, the Raptors never looked for Bosh in the block much after that even though Michael Sweetney and PJ Brown had shown little in how they might be able to stop him.
Bargnani had a great first half which included perfect decisions on offense including knowing when to take the three and when to drive. In an example of the latter, he made Ben Wallace (who is struggling big time) come out to meet him at the three point line, faked a shot and then drove in for the slam. Ben looked stupid. Andrea made three nice passes to Bosh in the game: on two of them Bosh was guilty of not expecting the pass and on one, he actually supplied a finish. Maybe all this talk of Bargnani being unselfish carries some weight and isn’t just a way to cover-up his occasional indecisiveness.
I’m officially of the belief that Calderon runs the team better than TJ Ford who seems to have lost his patience in running a simple play. It seems he deviates from the plan far too quickly and calls off too many screens to simply wander behind picks only to semi-drive and semi-kick it out. It’s a good thing we didn’t lose this game otherwise a lot of the blame would’ve been on TJ for not coping with the zone defense deployed so successfully by the Bulls late on. To make up for his offensive woes, Ford does try to play (sometimes overplay) bulldog defense on PGs which causes them frustration. He coerced Ben Gordon into using his left arm to wave him off and drew the charge late in fourth while the Bulls were making their run.
This game was decided in the fourth quarter. With the Raptors up 12, the Bulls went on a 13-0 run with four minutes left courtesy of two Ben Gordon three point plays, a couple Chris Duhon threes and some bad offensive decisions including a horrible pass by TJ Ford. Not to mention effective zone defense where Anthony Parker, Mo Peterson and Bargnani all missed great looks. So after Gordon converted his second three point play of the run and the Bulls used their foul to give, the Raptors were down one with 9 seconds left and all signs pointed to the ugly streak continuing.
TJ Ford ends up throwing a wild shot up which Chris Bosh rebounds and is clearly hacked in the arm by Tyrus “I’m here for the cheque” Thomas. Bosh calmly sinks two FTs putting the pressure on the Bulls. Ben Gordon ends up taking the shot and is short with the only contact coming welllllll after the shot was released. Raptors win, Bulls lose. So slimy Ben Gordon decides to air it out post-game; when asked about the last shot and if there was contact, Gordon says:
“Absolutely. But we didn’t get the call. I don’t know why. I thought they got a lucky one at the other end. That’s just how the game went.”
I’m not being homerish when I say that the Bulls should have no complaints about the officiating and if anything Ben Gordon got the benefit of the doubt on a few calls, most notably his clear offensive foul on Bosh where he leaned into Bosh to draw the foul. Bosh’s clear block on Sweetney which was called a foul is another example of how bad the officiating was. On the latter play, the farthest official who had no view of the play ended up making the call. I hate when that happens.
Quick note on Tyrus Thomas: This is the first time I’ve seen him play and he looked completely awkward in everything he does, his out-of-control pass-off charge on Bargnani was so avoidable that I wonder if this guy can walk and chew gum at the same time. Looking back at the off-season ramblings of Chris Duhon joining the Raptors, I can honestly say that Jose Calderon might be a better fit for the Raptors but I still would’ve loved to see Duhon in a Raptors uniform.
So New Jersey got thumped at home by the Spurs setting up tomorrows Atlantic Division showdown with the Nets which if the Raptors win, would give them a 4.5 game division lead. Chuck Swirsky brought out the salami and cheese after the game was over.
Whoever was operating the scoreboard on TV (The Score) kept messing up and either assigning the scored points too late or sometimes too early. How hard can this job be? You can check out some of the highlights in this RealGM thread.