The Bulls Tuesday found home sweet with a 105-94 victory over the Toronto Raptors, which was the Bulls eleventh consecutive win over the Raptors.
The Bulls had a brilliant first half, ran up a 23-point lead in the third quarter and then withstood a Raptors fourth quarter rush that cut the Bulls lead to 94-89. But Jimmy Butler, primarily, closed out the game with free throws. The Bulls broke a three-game losing streak and moved to 27-29. Toronto is 32-24 and has fallen to fifth in the Eastern Conference.
The Bulls were led by Doug McDermott with 20 points. Butler had 19 points on two of 10 shooting with 12 assists and was 15 of 19 on free throws. Taj Gibson had 14, Rajon Rondo 12 and Cristiano Felicio 10.
The Bulls had fallen to a season worst three games under .500. The Bulls were without Dwyane Wade, who has a wrist injury from the Phoenix game. Also out were Nikola Mirotic with back problems and Paul Zipser with an ankle issue and illness at the end of the 2-4 road trip. But the Bulls got back Butler from his heel issues, and it was crucial in getting the offense going again after failing to score 100 points the previous three games. The Raptors had just made a trade for Orlando’s Serge Ibaka, but he wasn’t with the team yet. The Bulls opened up going to Gibson inside, getting a quick lead and with impressive play off the bench, especially from Felicio in the first quarter, the Bulls took a 24-18 lead after one quarter. Jonas Valanciunas was strong on the boards early for the Raptors, but the Bulls countered with a big effort from the reserves. It was a huge second quarter for the reserves, who shot a combined 10 of 16 in the second quarter, led by Rondo with 10 points and a pair of threes. McDermott added another and Felicio had three offensive rebounds for putback baskets. It enabled the Bulls to blow out to a 50-31 lead with 4:02 left in the second quarter and 58-39 at halftime. It was an opportunistic Bulls team with a surprising 18-0 first half lead in fast break points with Rondo pushing the ball and Felicio strong on defense and getting the ball passed up court with Butler moving the ball inside with seven first half assists. Butler also had four first half steals as the Bulls continued to pile on with a 31-9 first half bench scoring lead. Gibson had 14 points in the first half.
The Bulls slowed some to start the second half, and Toronto went small with a third guard to try to get some speed in their game. The Bulls, however, stretched their lead to a game high 23 points at 66-43 after a pair of Robin Lopez scores. Butler continued to be tough on Raptors star DeMar DeRozan, who was two of 11 in the first half. He was ejected with 25 seconds left in the game. The Bulls held Toronto off with a 72-51 lead with about five minutes left in the third quarter. The Raptors then applied defensive pressure on the ball, forcing three straight turnovers as the Raptors drew within 72-56 with 2:59 in the third quarter. The Raptors then closed the third quarter on a 13-6 run to get within 78-64 entering the fourth quarter. The Raptors kept up the pressure to open the fourth quarter with Kyle Lowry getting going from three-point and cut their deficit to 83-73 with 8:50 left in the game. The Bulls then seemed to become cautious on offense with the Raptors attacking and shooting behind Cory Joseph. Toronto cut the Bulls lead to 88-81 with 5:36 left in the game. The Bulls got a three from Denzel Valentine and a fast break score from McDermott, but with a pair of turnovers afterward Toronto was within 93-87 with 3:20 left on the game.