The Toronto Raptors were in no mood to discuss Andrea Bargnani’s career night or Derrick Rose’s incredible fourth-quarter heroics – all they wanted to talk about was the winnable game they let slip away.
Rose had 17 of his 25 points in the fourth quarter to lead the Chicago Bulls to a 102-98 win over the reeling Raptors on Tuesday.
Down 92-90 with 12.7 seconds left, the Raptors put the ball in the hands of superstar Chris Bosh. Going one-on-one with Bulls forward Joakim Noah, Bosh went up for a jump shot but had it swatted away by Noah, who pumped his fist in delight.
Bosh admitted afterward that he made the wrong move against Noah.
“I knew I would take what he gives me, and I made the mistake of picking my dribble up after he cut off the baseline,” said Bosh, who finished with 25 points.
“It’s not gonna be the last time that we’re in a situation like that, or I’m in a situation like that. You just learn from it.”
Rose, the first overall pick in the 2008 draft, added 10 assists in one of the freshman’s best performances of the season, helping the Bulls (17-22) end a two-game losing streak. Luol Deng added 16 points and 16 rebounds and Andres Nocioni chipped in with 16 points off the bench for Chicago.
The loss spoiled a fantastic night for Bargnani, who erupted for a career-high 31 points in Toronto’s third straight loss. Bargnani dazzled the Air Canada Centre crowd of 18,494 with an array of layups, jumpers and three-pointers – and even added 10 rebounds for good measure in his first showdown with fellow No.1 pick Rose.
Bargnani wasn’t interested in celebrating his latest achievement.
“I really don’t want to talk about me, especially after a loss like that,” said Bargnani, whose previous high of 29 points came Nov. 21st against New Jersey. “We have lost three games in a row, we’re far from the eighth spot (in the East).
“It’s maybe the worst moment in the last three years.”
Anthony Parker added 15 points and Jamario Moon 11 for Toronto (16-24).
Trailing 71-68 entering the fourth, the Bulls went on a 9-0 run to open the quarter – capped by a Rose layup – to go out in front by six. The Raptors quickly answered with threes from Parker and Will Solomon to trim the deficit to one.
The teams traded the lead for the next four minutes before Ben Gordon’s three-pointer moved Chicago ahead 92-90. Solomon followed with a missed layup and Rose blazed downcourt for another layup.
After Toronto pulled to within two, Rose hit a floater off the backboard and answered a Bosh dunk with a driving layup for his 16th and 17th points of the quarter.
“He was feeling it,” Deng said of Rose. “Just give him the ball and get out of the way.”
Parker’s layup with 29.6 seconds left cut the lead to two, and Bosh intercepted an inbounds pass on Chicago’s ensuing possession, setting up the final play.
The Raptors were once again without starting centre Jermaine O’Neal (knee) and point guard Jose Calderon (hamstring). O’Neal missed his ninth straight game, though he could be back in the lineup by the end of the week. Calderon sat out for the sixth time in the past seven games, but may also be close to returning.
They sorely missed O’Neal’s presence up front against the Bulls, who outrebounded Toronto 41-31. The final numbers flattered the Raptors, who surrendered 26 rebounds in the first half – 12 on the offensive end – while grabbing just 10 of their own.
During one sequence, Deng grabbed three of his own misses in a row, finally scoring on his fourth try while fans serenaded the home team with boos.
“It just deflates you when you play good defence, you force them to miss shots and then they get the basketball again,” said Raptors coach Jay Triano. “This is exactly what we talked about at halftime, the fact that we had to be much better rebounding. And we were.”
Chicago shot 48.8 per cent while the Raptors finished at 47.3.
The Bulls took a 27-18 lead after one quarter and built their advantage to 13 points early in the second before Bosh caught fire, scoring seven straight Toronto points as the Raptors cut the gap to eight. Bosh continued his hot play later in the quarter, burying a turnaround jumper before finding Bargnani for a wide-open three-pointer that trimmed the deficit to 42-39.
An arcing Bargnani three punctuated the Raptors’ 20-6 run, and they led 48-47 at the half despite being outrebounded 26-11. Bargnani led all scorers with 14 points, while Bosh added 13. Kirk Hinrich had 10 for Chicago.
Bosh had eight of the Raptors’ first 10 points in the third, putting them up by seven midway through the quarter. But with Bosh on the bench for a breather, the Bulls whittled Toronto’s lead to three heading into the final quarter.
Notes: The Raptors honoured former play-by-play voice Chuck Swirsky at halftime. Swirsky worked Raptors radio and TV broadcasts for 10 seasons before accepting a similar position with the Bulls in the off-season. … Toronto, which entered the game first in the NBA in free-throw shooting at 82.7 per cent, went 23-for-26 from the line. Chicago, ranked sixth at 79.8 per cent, finished 13-of-15. … With Toronto and Chicago finally kicking off their season series, the New York Knicks are the only Eastern Conference opponent the Raptors haven’t faced this season. The Atlantic Division rivals will play a home-and-home set Feb. 20 and 22 before wrapping up their series with another back-to-back April 4-5.