Bulls put brakes on Raps

STEVE BUFFERY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 11:26 AM ET

TORONTO -- With just over two minutes left in the second quarter last night at the Air Canada Centre, Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich nailed a jump shot from 26 feet out to put Chicago up 47-42.

The closest Raptor to Hinrich was Pape Sow and he was sitting on the bench wearing a suit and tie.

"That's too easy, guys!" Toronto coach Sam Mitchell shouted.

No kidding.

The Raptors, by not playing the toughest of defence, allowed the Bulls to shoot 60 per cent from the field -- an opponent season high -- and waltz away with a 107-97 victory, dropping Toronto to 13-17. The win lifted the Bulls to 18-12.

The Bulls have had the Raptors number recently, now having won 15 straight. The last time the Raptors defeated the Bulls was on Dec. 6, 2002.

Making matter worse, the sellout crowd of 19,800 went silent with two minutes remaining when Raptors starting point guard T.J. Ford fell awkwardly and sprained his right ankle. Ford limped off the court but was able to stay in the game, although he is listed as questionable for tonight's game in Memphis.

The Raptors have been carried by Ford of late. And while the diminutive Texan performed well last night, he was unable to put the Raptors on his back, though he did manage 20 points and six assists. But with all-star forward Chris Bosh still out with a sore knee, the Bulls suffocated Ford and it was difficult for him to find his teammates.

"I've never had that much attention in my life," Ford said. "I'm definitely going to watch film on the plane (heading to Memphis) and get better. Because if teams do that, I've got to know how to handle it. And I think (last night), I didn't handle that situation well."

The Raptors turned the ball over 19 times, tying a season high, leading to 25 Chicago points. The Bulls weren't very responsible with the ball either, turning it over on 20 occasions.

Chicago, one of the better defending teams in the NBA, appeared to be running away with it in the fourth, leading by as many as 17, until the Raptors' Morris Peterson, who missed Wednesday's game against Minnesota with a sore hamstring, nailed a three with 2 1/2 minutes left to bring Toronto to within six.

But Chicago's Ben Wallace scored on the next possession and P.J. Brown hit two free throws to put Chicago back up by 10 with two minutes left.

Second-year Raptors forward Joey Graham had 17 points, while rookie forward Andrea Bargnani contributed 16 off the bench, going four for four from three-point range, before missing his next four.

The ever-improving Luol Deng led Chicago scorers with 25 points and seven rebounds.

"You're looking at a 6-9 guy with a seven-foot wingspan and the heart and the desire that he has, and he's going to get even better because he has a passion for it," Mitchell said of Deng. "His worth ethic is unbelievable."


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