Bulls Survive Back-to-Back Raptor Scares
The last two games the Chicago Bulls have played were down-to-the-wire nail biters, especially Saturday night’s buzzer-beating win in overtime. Both of these games, however, were against the Toronto Raptors. The same Toronto Raptors that hold a 16-33 record in the cellar of the Eastern Conference. Even without Derrick Rose, the Bulls were expected to trounce the Raptors in back-to-back games. Why then, did Toronto give the team so much trouble? Before playing the Bulls on Wednesday, the Raptors were on a three-game losing streak. Through most of the first game the Bulls looked kind of standoffish, and it just didn’t seem like there was that much effort at times and the Raptors pounced on that. Of course, the Bulls came back to win big in the fourth quarter, thanks to John Lucas III. Friday night, however, the Raptors exploded against the New York Knicks for a 96-79 home victory. Guard Demar DeRozan was an especially big factor in that game, as well as in Thursday’s game. After scoring 30 points against the Knicks, DeRozan took a hard fall, forcing him to exit the game and subsequently sit out for Saturday’s game against the Bulls. But perhaps that’s a reason why Toronto was giving the Bulls so much trouble. In a sense, they’re a scrappy team that rallies around each other when one of their big guys are out. The only thing is, they’re bench isn’t as deep, leaving their successes much fewer than the Bulls. Still, you have to give this team credit for setting the pace early on in the game against the Bulls on Saturday. Former Bulls players James Johnson and Aaron Gray stepped up big time, with Johnson scoring 20 points and grabbing eight rebounds. Something else I’ve noticed, especially during the second half, is that too often the Bulls let the opposing team set the pace of the game early on. All they’re doing here is making it harder for them to get back in it. We saw on Saturday how the Raptors were able to take a 30-20 lead into the second quarter. They were also out-rebounded by Toronto 58-44 during the game. The Bulls have played extremely well without Rose this season, but the last two games just seemed to give them problems. A win is a win, yes, but I think we just proved here that Rose, and even Rip Hamilton, are necessary for the Bulls to make it to the NBA Finals this year. The Raptors had nothing to lose. Playing back-to-back games in consecutive days would’ve made you think the Raptors would be a little more tired on Saturday. But they played well until they faltered in the game’s final seconds of overtime. They had that sense of urgency throughout the game, even though they aren’t playoff contenders. Hopefully a bit of that urgency in games against “lesser” teams will transfer over to the Bulls for the remainder of the year. That way, these last-second heroics won’t be needed. This is a guest post by Nick LaBanca from MidwayMadness.com. Midway Madness is a site dedicated to Chicago sports. It is written by Chicago sports fans, for Chicago sports fans. Nick LaBanca is a Columbia College graduate who grew up in Chicago and is an avid Chicago Bulls and White Sox fan. Wanna read more from Nick? Click here.
Photo Credit: Jonathan Daniel [Getty Images]