Bulls, Raptors clash in Toronto
(SportsNetwork.com) - Chicago Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau deserves a lot of credit for keeping his team competitive through the course of the season.
Thibodeau hopes that success carries over in the post All-Star break schedule, starting with Wednesday's road matchup against the Toronto Raptors.
The Bulls and Raptors are jockeying for playoff positioning in the Eastern Conference, as Chicago sits fourth in the standings -- 1 1/2 games behind Toronto. Chicago, which has dealt with a litany of injuries, including the loss of guard Derrick Rose, headed to the break with three straight wins and a 15-7 record since Jan. 2.
In last Thursday's 92-76 triumph over the Brooklyn Nets, a 10-point advantage (29-19) after the first quarter set the tone and the Bulls later scored a 23-15 edge in the final stanza. Taj Gibson, who was filling in for Carlos Boozer in the starting lineup, led the way with 16 points off the bench.
Boozer had missed three straight games with a calf injury and returned to post 15 points and 10 rebounds. Mike Dunleavy, Jimmy Butler and All-Star Joakim Noah all scored 14 points with Noah grabbing 13 rebounds.
"We have to look at our team in totality. For us to achieve, we need Carlos to play well. With our depth up front, we have three starters and they all have to sacrifice," Tom Thibodeau.
Noah has pulled down 10 or more rebounds in 23 of his last 24 games, and tallied eight points, five boards and five assists in the All-Star Game.
"I had a great time. I'm a little tired, but there's time to rest," Noah said of All-Star weekend. "The court is always the best part. It always feels good to win no matter what situation. I like competing. It was fun."
The Bulls are last in the NBA offensively with 92.3 ppg, but are second in opponents' scoring at 92.3 ppg. Opposing teams are shooting just 43.4 percent against the Bulls, who are 12-15 on the road and recently went 3-3 on a recent trip.
Meanwhile, the Raptors continued to roll with Tuesday's 103-93 victory at Washington thanks to Kyle Lowry's 24 points and 10 assists.
"I just was getting more looks, trying to attack a little more," said Lowry. "That first game out of the break is always tough and I didn't want to let that be an excuse for us to lose the game."
DeMar DeRozan, Amir Johnson and Greivis Vasquez scored 14 points apiece, and both Patrick Patterson and Jonas Valanciunas netted 10. The Raptors made 42- of-74 shots (56.8 percent) and have won three straight and nine of the last 13 contests.
Toronto now leads the Atlantic Division by four games ahead of Brooklyn and will open a three-game homestand Wednesday versus Chicago, Cleveland and Orlando. The Raptors have won three in a row at home and are 14-10 at Air Canada Centre. Since Jan. 1, the Dinos are 9-2 as the host.
East teams have a 5-10 record north of the border this season.
The Raptors have won twice in three meetings with Chicago this season, but dropped a 96-80 decision at home back on Nov. 15. The Bulls have won nine of the past 14 overall matchups in this series and are 13-6 in the previous 19 trips to Air Canada Centre.