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Raps Can't Complete Comeback

TORONTO - The Chicago Bulls continue to have Toronto's number.

Doug McDermott scored 29 points as the Bulls edged the Raptors 109-107 on Monday, Chicago's ninth straight victory against Toronto.

Kyle Lowry led Toronto (44-21) with 33 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists, while DeMar DeRozan had 27 points, and Patrick Patterson chipped in with 13 off the bench.

The loss dropped Toronto's record on this seven-game homestand to 5-2, and it was only the Raptors' second loss at the Air Canada Centre in their last 17 outings.

More bad news for the Raptors came when they lost Jonas Valanciunas with 2:25 left in the first quarter, when the forward headed to the locker-room holding his left hand. X-rays were negative but the team said he would undergo further testing. Valanciunas missed 17 games early in the season with a broken bone in the same hand.

The Bulls have been tumbling down the Eastern Conference standings, and they arrived in Toronto trailing Detroit by a game for the eighth and final playoff spot.

But the Bulls have owned the Raptors, winners of eight straight prior to Monday, including an historic 115-113 victory at the ACC on Jan. 3 that saw Jimmy Butler go off for 40 second-half points to break Michael Jordan's franchise record.

``It does (matter) for me because they've spanked us every time we've walked on the floor,'' Raptors coach Dwane Casey said, on whether beating the Bulls was of particular importance. ``We've been here, we've been on a little semi-roll or whatever every time we play them then they come and spank us.''

The Bulls played without Derrick Rose (groin strain) or Pau Gasol (swollen knee), but the Raptors still couldn't catch a break, as Chicago led most of the night, and took a seven-point advantage into the fourth quarter in front of a capacity crowd of 19,800 that included former heavyweight boxers Lennox Lewis and George Chuvalo.

The Raptors nearly came back to win with some late-game heroics. A drama-filled final minute saw the Raptors pull to within a point on a DeRozan basket with 20 seconds left. DeRozan answered a pair of free throws from Nikola Mirotic with another basket, but a Butler free throw iced the victory for Chicago.

The Bulls shot 49 per cent on the night, to Toronto's 45 per cent.

E'Twuan Moore scored 11 points as part of a Bulls' 67 per cent shooting performance in the first quarter, and Chicago took a 34-29 lead into the second.

The Bulls would pull ahead by 12 late in the second, but the Raptors ended the quarter on an 8-2 run capped by a Patterson three that cut Chicago's lead to 58-52 at the break.

A McDermott three early in the third put the Bulls up by 13 but the Raptors battled back again and Chicago led 84-77 with one quarter left.

The Raptors play 10 of their final 17 games on the road, beginning Tuesday in Milwaukee. They're in Indiana on Thursday before returning home to host Boston on Friday and Orlando on Sunday.