CHICAGO -- The boys from the Windy City continue to breeze past the Raptors.
With a 93-90 victory over Toronto last night at the United Center, the Chicago Bulls extended their win streak over the Raptors to 14 consecutive games. The most recent time Toronto defeated Chicago was back on Dec. 6, 2002 (103-89) at the Air Canada Centre.
"We are aware of that, probably more so than you are," a testy Toronto head coach Sam Mitchell told a Chicago reporter when reminded of that stat.
"Sometimes you just don't have good matchups against them," Mitchell said of the streak. "They've got a lot of quickness, a lot of athleticism and we tend to struggle (against teams like that). Especially my first two years because we didn't have athletic guys at certain positions."
The loss dropped Toronto's record to 7-12 and marked the second road game in a row when the Raptors had an opportunity to win, but lost it in the final few minutes.
Toronto led by as much as 10 points in a game that saw the lead change 16 times. Six Raptors scored in double figures.
Playing in his first game since Nov. 22, Toronto forward Morris Peterson scored on a layup to bring the Raptors to within one point with 18 seconds left. But they fell behind by three when Chris Duhon sunk two free throws after being purposely fouled by T.J. Ford.
The Raptors took possession following a timeout, but both Peterson and Ford missed three-point attempts in the final few seconds of the game.
"I thought I got the best look I could get, but it didn't fall down," said Peterson, of his off-balance, 25-foot jump shot. "We have to play hard for 48 minutes and I thought tonight we had a couple of lapses."
The Bulls now have won seven in a row and are a perfect 7-0 against Eastern Conference teams. They were led last night by Argentine international Andres Nocioni, who played with Toronto point guard Jose Calderon at Tau Ceramica in the Spanish League during the 2003-04 season. Nocioni recorded a double-double -- 17 points and 14 rebounds -- and had a huge block on Anthony Parker with just more than two minutes left in the game and Chicago up by four. Luol Deng had 25 for the Bulls.
TIES CAREER BEST
Rookie forward Jorge Garbajosa tied his career high with 17 points for the Raps, while Chris Bosh picked up his 15th double-double of the season with 13 points and 12 rebounds, despite leaving for a spell in the second quarter with a sore right knee.
Starting centre Rasho Nesterovic picked up a season high 12 points for Toronto, along with seven rebounds. With fellow rookie Andrea Bargnani out with a sore back, Uros Slokar played for the first time in the regular season.
Mitchell acknowledged that losing two consescutive road matches by four points or less to strong teams (Cleveland and Chicago), late in the games, is devastating.
"We made some bad decisions on defence (late in the game)," he said.
"We didn't talk and communicate like we had been doing all night and gave up some wide open shots. You just can't do that. We don't have the margin of error. It seems like when we make those mistakes, teams make a shot."
The Raptors host the Portland TrailBlazers tomorrow afternoon before setting out for games in Miami and Orlando next week.
C+ Offence: The Raps went 8-for-21 from beyond the arc, but shot only 43% from the floor to Chicago's 47%.
B Defence: Raptors deserve kudos for ending Bulls' streak of 100-point games at eight. Bulls did have 12 blocks.