The Toronto Raptors had clawed back to within one point, after being down by double digits much of the game to the Chicago Bulls. Amir Johnson’s 3-point play, followed by a shot-clock violation, gave the Raps the ball with 11 seconds remaining. Sadly, the magical comeback was just out of reach. DeMar DeRozan’s jumper was blocked and recovered by the tireless Jimmy Butler, who was fouled and made one of two free throws. With no timeouts remaining, DD’s desperation heave at the buzzer wasn’t close, although the Eastern Conference playoff race had just become more so.
The Raps, on the second game of a back-to-game, seemed unprepared early against the hyper-physical Bulls. The visitors played like the Raps do when at their best, with unselfish ball movement and timely cuts to the basket. The first quarter was a defensive disaster for Toronto, and they could never recover. Toronto led once, at 2-1, and after that were in pursuit mode.
Chicago’s guards won this game for them, in particular ex-Rap D.J. Augustin. After being waived in December, he grabbed a career-saving lifeline from the Bulls, and on this night, had the last laugh on the team that rejected him. Augustin made more three-balls (4) than the entire Raptor team (3, on 17 tries). He ended with 19 points, as did Kirk Hinrich. Butler played nearly 46 minutes, scored 16 and added 3 blocks, none bigger than the one on DeMar with the game on the line.
Stand-up comedians used to get a laugh with the line “I went to the fights last night, and a hockey game broke out.” Har-de-har. Anyway, if you insert “basketball” in place of “hockey”, you’ll have a sense of this match. The referees seemed uninterested in the Bulls’ pushing under the hoop. Coach Dwane Casey decided Jonas Valanciunas didn’t have the stomach for grappling with Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer, so sent out Psycho-T, Tyler Hansbrough, to push back. The switch worked almost too well, as Hansbrough led the Raps with 7 rebounds, but nearly got in a fight with Nazr Mohammed. There were 7 technical fouls called this night as tempers flared, and Kyle Lowry and Taj Gibson fouled out. All the nastiness aside, the oddest stat of the night was Noah’s 13 assists!
DD kept challenging the Bulls inside, and got banged around enough to earn 11 free throws, making 10. He scored a game-high 32. JV had another MIA game, with 2 points and 2 boards. Terrence Ross held down Mike Dunleavy’s scoring, but couldn’t keep him off the glass, as Dunleavy grabbed 11.
The Raps are going to have to put this disappointing result behind them quickly, as the suddenly red-hot Cleveland Cavaliers are in Toronto on Friday night.