In what was a very entertaining game, the Bulls saw a 19-point second half lead disappear at the end of regulation but survived in overtime to beat the Raptors 107-105. Much of the overtime was featured some tired play, but the final sequences were pretty thrilling with Luol Deng answering a Kyle Lowry floater with his own drive and score with 3.3 seconds to go. A buzzer-beating Jose Calderon attempt missed to secure the Bulls another road victory.
It was a game that didn't look to have such drama as the Bulls came out really fast behind Carlos Boozer. Boozer had 17 points on 7/11 shooting in the first quarter, and finished with a season high 36 points in the win. Boozer was really aggressive in carving out space against the more slight Toronto front line and the Bulls did a great job finding him. Boozer's last few weeks have been insane (so much it really needs to be a separate post). This isn't the case of coming around on a player who 'is what he is', Boozer is simply playing a lot better than he was at the start of the season, and frankly better than I thought he was ever going to be again. The Bulls were +20 with him on the floor tonight and he made a couple of key plays in that overtime period.
The Bulls really suffered in contrast when their bench came in the game. The Raptors hung around in the first half on some proficient mid-range shooting from Calderon and Demar DeRozan (who started 5 of 5...but then went 1-8 the rest of the way) but it was the play from backups Kyle Lowry and Alan Anderson that really kept the Bulls from a 1st half blowout and they were again instrumental in the 2nd half comeback. Lowry is starting-caliber to be sure, and played a majority of the second half through overtime to finish with 26 points on 15 shots. Alan Anderson bested Lowry with an really surprising 27 points propelled by hitting 4-9 from three.
The Bulls were able to get their biggest lead of the night behind Rip Hamilton's 13-point third quarter (he even hit two three-pointers!) but the rest of the guard play was very poor. Kirk Hinrich fouled out in 33 minutes with 3 points, 3 assists, and 3 turnovers. He didn't hit a three (see?). Hinrich's defense did stand out but that's because it seems Nate Robinson's only place on the team anymore is to make Kirk look good by comparison. Though the Raps PGs also had their way with Hinrich they were really feasting on Nate. Toronto's often stuck with a small lineup that would sometimes be overpowered by the Bulls but often did a good job spreading them out and attacking. They also did well in compensating for their size on the boards by gang-rebounding and tapping out a lot of long misses, ultimately holding mostly-even with the Bulls on the glass.
Late in the game the Bulls sort of strangely had offensive sets of spreading everyone out and having Marco Belinelli create at the top. While it's nice to see that Belinelli can attempt that role, the results really weren't there. The Bulls only scoring in the final 4:30 minutes was three FTs and a Boozer make. Luckily the Raps squandered several opportunities of their own late in the 4th, including a FT miss from Amir Johnson that would've given them a lead with 12 seconds remaining. The Bulls didn't execute that much better in overtime but did better getting those rebounds and loose balls. And it wasn't Belinelli but Deng who got the final call and delivered. While it can be considered an 'escape', it also is a quality road win. And perhaps a significant one to look back on, if 2013 really means a different Carlos Boozer.