The Toronto Raptors had about as much chance of winning this game as Tim Tebow has in beating Tom Brady. But while Tebow is currently on the way to being crushed by Brady. The Raptors in Chicago had a lot more fight than one might have expected coming in. But in the end the Bulls would come out on top of things but it was an interesting ride to get there.
Demar DeRozan got off to a good start with 6 of the Raptors first 8 points. Amir Johnson did not as he was sitting on the bench just over 3 minutes into this one. He had a foul on the opening possession than picked up his second with 8:49 to go in the 1st. Bulls had a 12-8 lead after DeRozan's third score but would then go on a run and push the lead to 21-8. This prompted Dwane Casey to call a time out and change his approach on defence. The Raptors went zone and it worked really well. Derrick Rose could no longer pick apart Jose Calderon. The Bulls struggled to find any offence at all. James Johnson was having a solid two way performance against his former team. He along with Leandro Barbosa were leading a wave of scoring from the bench. The Bulls 24-13 lead after one, was being chipped away as they had empty possession after empty possession. In fact the Raptors were able to get the lead 35-33 with about 1:30 to play in the half. That was the first time they had led in the game since it was 4-2 Raps in the early moments. Toronto would reverse the 24-13 advantage in the 2nd as they outscored the Bulls by the exact same margin for a offensively challenged 37-37 halftime score.
Raptors came out in the 3rd and continued on with zone defence with a more traditional looking 2-3 zone. Bulls would nose out ahead by 5 points but a DeRozan 3 pointer would bring the Raptors back to level at 44 a piece. It was a scrappy 3rd quarter as both teams had their issues getting the ball in the basket. The Bulls would again push out to a five point bulge and would end up with just a 4 point lead after 3 with score just 56-52. Some more bad news on the injury front for Toronto as James Johnson was out with a twisted ankle and after reports he may return, as it ended up he would not. The Bulls came out of the blocks in the 4th and quickly built their advantage to 11 points. The Raptors made one finally push back but the Bulls responded and re-established the 11 point advantage and push it further with a Rose bucket to make it 71-58 Chicago. The Raptors were challenged to score, they had one possession where they had 3 or 4 attempts only to finally have Kleiza end up at the line. Which was a rare event. Raptors making a foul shot was even more rare. They went 1-7 from the line. Demar DeRozan did not get to the line even once in this game. Barbosa was the only Raptor to make a free throw in this game. The Bulls would close this game out and earn a hard fought 77-64 win moving to 5-0 at the United Center on the season and 12-2 overall.
Raptors fall 4-9 and have lost 4 straight. They next hit the floor at 4pm on Monday as it is the MLK Holiday in the U.S and they will take on the Hawks. DeRozan and Barbosa shared the team high in scoring with just 15 points. Raptors were able to hold Rose to just 18 points but he had 11 dimes to go along with it. The fact the Raptors were able to hang with one of the NBA's Elite teams was encouraging but in the end another loss and they lose a player as well with Johnson going out. Despite all of that you had to at least be a little impressed with how Dwane Casey schemed on defence to give the Raptors a fighting chance through 3 quarters. It was noted that Casey was even more active than usual on the sidelines in the broadcast.
So that is about all for the game. However I want to make mention of an interview conducted by Eric Smith that was part of the pre-game radio broadcast with former Raptor broadcaster Chuck Swirsky. Believe it or not this is the 4th season since Chuck left for Chicago. Time real does seem to fly by. Chuck since leaving Toronto has never explained why he left other than for "Family Reasons". He has been in this blog many times and out of respect to Chuck we have never pressed to have him explain. Eric Smith in this interview with Chuck, it finally is explained in depth what those reasons in fact were. So I encourage you to go have a listen.
I honestly never knew the reasons Chuck had left till today. I had heard bits and pieces of this story but never knew what was fact or fiction. I have always loved Chuck as person and I am sorry to hear of the reasons he had to leave a place that he did and still does love. Chuck and Eric both will always have a special place in my heart. I was just doing a college radio show locally here in Hamilton and emailed Chuck and later Eric about being guests on the show. Chuck would do that small radio show several times as would Eric. Chuck would also help me get to know a few people in an attempt to advance myself. He is a great human being and truly cares for people. I may have issues with his style of broadcasting at times. But never the man. The man is one of the best people I have had the chance to know. I have appreciated his wiliness to be a guest here in the DNB since leaving for Chicago. Now knowing what was going on for him personally I appreciate even more. Whatever you may think about Chuck, he gave a heck of a lot to helping sell this Raptor franchise in his time here. He should always be respected for all that he did to try and grow the Raptors and game here.