The Raptors really took the Bulls by the horns last night.
In a game featuring a pair of young teams that could meet in the first round of playoffs, the Raptors bounced back from a four-point deficit at the half to defeat the Chicago Bulls 103-89 last night at the Air Canada Centre.
Chris Bosh set the pace for the Raptors, although he was not the only story.
The all-star forward finished with his eighth consecutive double-double, with 22 points and 11 rebounds, and sent the crowd to its feet in the second quarter when he spun around Luol Deng and made a nice pass to Kris Humphries, who then scored on a free throw.
"This was a fun game to be a part of," said Raptors shooting guard Anthony Parker, who added a career-high 27 points. "Chicago is one of the best teams in the East. We knew it was going to be a tough game and we just kept fighting even when we got down early."
The victory extended Toronto's lead over the Miami Heat to two games for third place in the Eastern Conference and home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. The Heat lost to the Charlotte Bobcats, 111-103 last night.
The Raptors have now won three in a row, snapping Chicago's three-game win streak, and set a franchise record with 28 home wins. Starting small forward Joey Graham picked up 19 points and five assists, tying career bests, while adding nine rebounds.
"This is the perfect time for me to step up," said Graham, who also did a good job guarding his Chicago counterpart Deng.
"What better time to do it than right now."
Coach Sam Mitchell lauded Graham's effort.
"We knew that for us to win Joey would have to be important because Deng has just manhandled us," Mitchell said.
"We felt that Joey is the most physical guy on the team, with speed and quickness, that could guard (Deng). (Ben) Gordon got his, but we did a job on Deng and (Kirk) Hinrich."
Gordon led Chicago with 27 points and six assists. Deng picked up 13 points and a sub-par seven rebounds.
"Our guys are focused and they understand what we're trying to accomplish," Mitchell said. "And once you start winning, winning breeds confidence."
Juan Dixon scored 17 off the bench, while backup point guard Jose Calderon, who wore a No. 15 on his wristband in honor of the injured Jorge Garbajosa, recorded eight assists.
The Raptors trailed 50-46 at the half, but charged back in the third quarter, out-scoring Chicago 31-17, as Dixon nailed a 34-foot running jump shot to put the Raptors up 77-67 at the buzzer to end the third.
Toronto went to the free throw line 16 times in that frame, converting on 12.
Morris Peterson endeared himself to the crowd and his coach in the second quarter by diving for loose balls all over the court and then slamming home a huge dunk with just over eight minutes later to put the Raptors up 33-24.
However, a couple of minutes later, he was thrown out of the game, and for tonight's game in Minnesota against the Timberwolves, when he was issued a flagrant foul two for hammering Hinrich across the face with his forearm as Hinrich went up for a layup on a fast break. The Bulls guard went down hard and referee Bob Delaney did not hesitate in making the call. Calderon then was slapped with a foul when he argued the call to referee Ed Malloy.
B + Offence: The Raptors shared the ball well, picking up 25 assists to Chicago's 20. Scored 21 fast-break points.
B Defence: Kept the Bulls to 42% from the floor and forced the Bulls into 18 turnovers, leading directly to 17 Toronto points.