Tonight, 48 minutes of basketball wasn’t enough when the Raptors came to town to take on the Bulls at the United Center. It took every last second of regulation and a 5 minute overtime for Chicago to claim a 102-101 victory over Toronto.
Luol Deng was the hero. Down by one with 6.4 seconds left, C.J. Watson (23 points) drove in the lane and had his fadeaway attempt blocked by former Bull James Johnson. Deng was in the right place at the right time. He grabbed the miss and tossed it up into the basket as time expired, giving the Bulls the one-point victory.
Chicago played without Derrick Rose for the sixth consecutive game. Rose ran in a pool Friday and did some light shooting after practice. He hasn’t played since March 12, when he sustained a groin injury in a game against the Knicks. If the Bulls are going to make a run in the playoffs, they’ll need Rose at full-strength. Coach Tom Thibodeau has been very careful not to rush his MVP point guard back too soon.
The Bulls have won 5 out of 6 games without Rose in the lineup, including a 94-82 victory Wednesday in Toronto. In that game, Deng recorded a double-double, (17 points, 10 rebounds) a feat he duplicated tonight, scoring 23 points and pulling down 10 rebounds.
Carlos Boozer had a quiet game Wednesday night, scoring just 8 points in 27 minutes. He rebounded tonight, leading the Bulls in scoring with 24 points while also grabbing 10 boards.
Chicago played the entire second half without Joakim Noah, who picked up back-to-back technical fouls with 1:28 remaining in the second quarter. Noah received the first technical for barking at an official after he was called for a personal foul on Raptors’ forward Andrea Bargnani. Noah picked up the ball and threw a forceful chest pass at the referee, causing the ejection. Noah left the locker room before reporters were allowed to enter, and faces a possible suspension from the league for his actions. The NBA suspended Boston Celtics guard Rajon Rondo for two games earlier this season after he tossed a ball at an official.
With or without Rose, the Bulls have to play better than they did tonight. They were outplayed most of the game by a Raptors team that has one of the worst records in the league. To make matters worse, Toronto was playing without starting shooting guard and second-leading scorer DeMar DeRozan.
The Raptors did receive a solid contribution from James Johnson, who the Bulls traded one year ago in exchange for a 1st-round draft pick. Johnson scored 20 points and made several plays late in the game, but did miss a key free throw right before Deng’s game-winner in overtime.
With the victory, the Bulls become the league’s first team to win 40 games, while increasing their lead in the Eastern Conference to 3 games over the Miami Heat. They have Sunday off before taking on the Denver Nuggets at home Monday Night (7:00 PM CST).
Note: The Bulls are an NBA-best 19-0 when scoring 100+ points