December 31, 2013 – the last time that the Toronto Raptors had won against the Chicago Bulls, 85-79. Rudy Gay, Lou Williams, Steve Novak, Quincy Acy and Chuck Hayes were still part of the roster during that win. What I’m trying to say is, it has been a long time since we have won against the Bulls.
But that all changed Tuesday night when the Raptors rallied and got the over-time win outscoring the Bulls 122-120.
Aside from the win, there was something else that happened during the game that seemed to have ignited the fighting spirit within them (yes, pun intended). Serge Ibaka was ejected for fighting fouls with 3:58 left to play in the third quarter. Robin Lopez was also ejected from the game as he was on the receiving end of Ibaka’s punch. As it stands now, both have been suspended for 1 game along with being fined approximately $115,000 according to The Score.
After three quarters of play, the Raptors were down 15 and were now without Ibaka who was their hottest shooter. There were cheers from the crowd saying “WIN FOR IBAKA!” and it seemed like the players heard as they went on a 15-0 run with 6:31 left to play. The “W” was getting closer and pizza was becoming an option for lunch the next day.
And there you have it, with 0:37 left on the clock, DeMar drives to the net for an easy lay-up cashing in 2 points tying the game, 113-113! Then the whistle blows and everyone realizes that Denzel Valentine committed a shooting block foul that forced DeMar to the line. You can hear faint chants of “M.V.P., M.V.P.!”. DeMar sets himself up, shoots – misses. If you listened closely, you can hear a few hearts break when the ball bounced off the rim. With 11 seconds left, Jimmy Butler pulls up for an 18-foot jumper and misses but there’s Patrick Patterson with the defensive rebound. Raptors have the last shot and a play is drawn up for DeMar but he was unable to deliver. DeMar missed the 26-foot three-point attempt forcing the game into overtime. It was then that the Raptors took over outscoring the Bulls 9-7 in OT and winning the game.
The Raptors shot 49.5% from the field and had a total of 61 rebounds which was key in their comeback late in the game. But despite the win, Raptors were not themselves when it came to free-throws. They were 74.1% from the line compared to their 87.5% from the win over Indiana Sunday night. Key players were missing their free-throws like DeMar DeRozan who shot 7/11.
What else helped the Raptors win this game? His name is “PJ Tucker”. If you’re sick of hearing about this guy, well too bad. You’re going to hear it a lot more especially when play-offs roll around. Even though Jimmy Butler finished with 37 points, Tucker shut him down in the fourth quarter. When people say this guy is persistent on defence, it’s something that you need to see for yourself. The way he fights through screens, the way he switches on rotation, he is a sight to see. Watching such a defense-minded player dominate in a league of shooters is so much fun to watch. Tucker played 33 key minutes in which he finished with 8 points and 12 rebounds. His post-game interview can attest to just how hard he worked to close out the game as he was completely out of breath and veins were popping.
With the win over the Bulls, the Raptors are now half a game back from being 3rd in the East, improving their records to 9-5 since the All-Star break. They will play the Miami Heat Thursday night and have the chance to up their win-streak to 4 games. Though things did not start to pick up for the Raptors until late in the game, a lot of things were done right. Defense was there, offense was there and the players looked like they were playing for each other. It should also be noted that the Raptors are now 5-0 when wearing the royal blue uniform of the Toronto Huskies. Perhaps they should wear the blue for the rest of the season and even into to the NBA finals, what do you think?
Sources: ESPN, The Score