The Chicago Bulls continued their defensive dominance Saturday night at the United Center, pulling out a 77-64 victory over the Toronto Raptors. The Bulls improved to a league-best 12-2 and have won five games in a row.
Derrick Rose led five Bulls in double figures, posting 18 points, 11 assists and four rebounds in 41 minutes of action, including the entire second half. Carlos Boozer, who's had a strong January, scored 17 points and grabbed 13 rebounds while shooting 8-for-15 from the field in 33 minutes. Luol Deng had a 10-point first half and finished with 14 points to go along with a season-low two rebounds.
Playing on the second night of yet another back-to-back set, coach Tom Thibodeau's team got off to a fast start, taking a 21-8 lead eight minutes into the contest and 23-14 after one quarter of play. However, slowly but surely, given the pace of the game, it evaporated as the Raptors (4-9) outscored the Bulls 23-14 in the second quarter and played with the type of confidence Chicago fans didn't expect to see. Raptors guard DeMar DerRozan had a team-high 15 points, while Leandro Barbosa put up 15 points on 7-for-20 shooting. James Johnson was a man on a mission in the first half, scoring 10 points. He finished with 12.
The turning point of the game came in the fourth quarter, which the Bulls began ahead by four points. After hitting several clutch baskets in Friday night's win over the Boston Celtics, Rose shot just 7-for-20 from the field against the Raptors, but when the Bulls needed a huge play, he made it.
The Bulls used a 15-6 run to take a 71-58 lead midway through the final stanza. Rose made three straight assists to begin the quarter, finding John Lucas III for a three-pointer from the right corner and Taj Gibson for two easy baskets, a dunk and a four-foot, floater-type shot, the latter of which to beat the shot clock. Then, Gibson nailed three free throws, and Rose found Lucas for another three-pointer and hit a driving, double-pump layup himself.
Gibson and Lucas gave the Bulls energized fourth-quarter efforts. The former notched a double-double of 11 points and 12 rebounds, while Lucas, with both Rip Hamilton and C.J. Watson out again, poured in 10 points in almost 20 minutes. It was a tale of two halves for the "Bench Mob." The Raptors' reserves had 25 points versus the home team's four points off the bench in the first half. But the Bench Mob got revenge in the second half, outscoring the visiting bench 18-14.
The bottom line for the Bulls is that they remained sharp despite their lackluster shooting -- 40.2 percent from the field and 4-for-15 from three-point range. They held the Raptors to 34.9 percent shooting and outrebounded them 52-50, as Joakim Noah added 12 boards. Given those numbers along with a season-low five turnovers, Thibodeau has plenty of reasons to be pleased with the way his squad ran his game plan.
Next up, the Bulls get a much-needed day off Sunday before Monday's Martin Luther King Jr. Day matinee against the Memphis Grizzlies at FedEx Forum for the second consecutive season. Last year, Rose celebrated the holiday by dropping his first career triple-double of 22 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds.