Bulls 104, Raptors 88
A message in the Chicago locker room read: “How bad do we want
it?” The way Joakim Noah played, it was easy to tell.
Derrick Rose scored 26 points, Noah had 18 points, 19 rebounds
and matched a career-high with seven assists and the Bulls beat
Toronto 104-88 on Sunday night to take a one-game lead over the
Raptors for the final Eastern Conference playoff spot.
“I knew it was a really important game, I was really
focussed,” Noah said. “I just wanted to go out there and impose
my will as much as I could, just be aggressive offensively and
defensively. It was a huge win and I just wanted to make sure that
our team played harder than their team.”
Luol Deng scored 14 points, Taj Gibson had 11 and Ronald Murray
and Hakim Warrick each scored 10 points for the Bulls, who led by
Chicago has won eight of 12 since Noah returned from a foot
injury that forced him to miss 10 games. The Bulls went 0-10
“He’s a guy who’s always energetic, always yelling and
talking,” Rose said. “He’s always energy while he’s out there and
you want to do the same when you see him do all that stuff.”
The win helped Chicago forget the misery of Friday’s double
overtime defeat at New Jersey, their second loss to the Nets this
“It’s been up and down but as long as it’s up, we’ve just got
to keep it up here,” Rose said. “We’ve got two games left and
we’ve got to play every game like it’s our last.”
Sonny Weems and Andrea Bargnani each scored 18 points for the
injury-riddled Raptors, who lost their fifth straight. Hedo
Turkoglu had a career-high 19 rebounds and nine assists but shot 2
for 12 and scored just six points.
“They were better than us, obviously,” Raptors coach Jay
Triano said. “They shot the ball much better.”
Jarrett Jack had 14 points but was the only Raptors reserve to
score until Marcus Banks converted a layup with 5:20 left in the
The Bulls can clinch the eighth and final playoff spot in the
East with a win and a Toronto loss, or by winning their two
remaining games. The Raptors hold the tiebreaker over the Bulls
after winning the first two matchups this season.
“We haven’t done nothing yet,” Rose said in a rowdy Bulls
locker room. “We’ve still got two games to play.”
Chicago hosts Boston on Tuesday and travels to Charlotte on
Wednesday for its season finale. Toronto is at Detroit on Monday
and finishes at home to New York on Wednesday.
“We’ve still got a long way to go,” Bulls coach Vinny Del
Negro said. “We’ve got to refocus and get our energy back for
Tuesday. Every game is like a playoff game for us. This was just
one step in the right direction but there’s still a lot of things
“We know what we have to do,” Del Negro added. “It’s not
going to be easy but we’ve put ourselves in this situation and now
we’ve got to handle it. Tonight was a good step for us.”
Noah wasn’t complaining about having to face the Celtics in a
potential playoff clincher.
“It’s good that we have Boston coming up,” Noah said. “That’s
an easy game to get up for. If we were playing in front of (a crowd
of) 2,000 in New Jersey, it’s a different situation. We understand
what’s at stake.”
Toronto’s playoff hopes look bleak, but Weems wasn’t about to
“We have to dig in,” Weems said. “We still have a chance. If
some players on the team are giving up, they shouldn’t be
Raptors forward Amir Johnson made his second straight start in
place of Chris Bosh, who is expected to miss the remainder of the
regular season after surgery last week to repair a broken nose.
Bosh was released from hospital Friday and had the post-surgical
packing removed from his nose Sunday, but has not rejoined the
Turkoglu started for Antoine Wright, who left Friday’s loss at
Atlanta with a sore left ankle and is still walking with crutches.
Turkoglu also injured his nose when he was headbutted by Boston’s
Tony Allen last Wednesday. Turkoglu wore a protective face mask on
Friday but did not wear one Sunday.
NOTES: The Bulls outrebounded the Raptors 49-41. … Toronto had
won the past five meetings. … Noah’s career high in rebounds is
21, done three times. … Toronto shot 6 for 25 in the third.