The Toronto Raptors, who hadn’t played since Tuesday, came out flat against the Chicago Bulls. Early on it was the visitors who had the jump, despite having played an OT game the night before. The Raps were missing Jonas Valanciunas, not dressed because of a neck injury, and the lack of offense from the centre position was glaring. However, the evergreen Amir Johnson was able to provide some points inside, and when Quincy Acy took Aaron Gray’s spot, the Raps began to cook.
Carlos Boozer, who has owned the Raps forever, dominated the first quarter with 13 points, but began to find himself in foul difficulty. The Raps down by 11 at one point, got some buckets from DeMar DeRozan and Rudy Gay, and the deficit was 2 beginning Q2. This one was back and forth, but the Raps ended the half on a 7-0 run, to pull ahead by 4.
They never trailed again, and even pulled into a seemingly comfortable 15-point lead on Rudy’s jumper mid-way through the third. The Bulls didn’t quit, despite increasing signs of fatigue. A team that hits 3-balls is never out of a game, and Chicago hit 9 on the game, to the Raps’ meagre 2. The Bulls roared back, shrugging off the ejection of Richard Hamilton. The veteran small forward was tossed for using his elbow to attempt tooth extraction from the unwilling mouth of DeRozan. The Raps closed the quarter with an 8-point cushion.
The final 12 minutes had its share of worrisome moments, as the exhausted Bulls found new life. Marco Bellinelli, his career revived since his Raps’ days, nailed a 3-ball, but then the night’s most hilarious moment occurred. Amir grabbed a pass from Alan Anderson, set his feet, and nailed a 3-ball of his own. A few moments later, Rudy drained another one, Boozer fouled out, and the victory was safe.
Quincy played a career-high 35+ minutes, and was a huge contributor, as his game-high plus21 makes abundantly clear. He blocked 3 shots, no trivial feat for an undersized power forward, scored 9 points and grabbed 10 boards. Amir was a rock the entire game, and led all scorers with 24. His 3-ball was not his only made outside shot, and he rolled down the key for some easy baskets. Kyle Lowry is silencing his critics, which happens when you dish 11 assists against 1 turnover. We can hope he rediscovers his 3-point stroke in short order; the Raps need those baskets.
I look forward to the return of Jonas and Terrence Ross (ankle sprain) when Toronto hosts the Brooklyn Nets on Sunday afternoon.