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article imageNBA: Another late collapse for Raptors in Loss to Bulls Special

By Aman Dhanoa     Mar 22, 2012 in Sports
Toronto - Same old story. For the Toronto Raptors, the “fourth quarter collapse” storyline has grown stale this season with many fans and critics eager for the team to quickly play out the string of meaningless games remaining.
On Wednesday night, the Raptors were up against NBA’s best team in the Chicago Bulls that was without its best player, last year’s league MVP, Derrick Rose. With that in mind perhaps the outcome probably wasn’t all that surprising. The Bulls put together a 20-0 run with 4:17 left in the fourth to pull away for a 94-82 victory at the Air Canada Centre.
The Raptors played the visitors tough through three quarters, especially the second when the team outscored the visitors 28-16 to hold a 51-43 lead at the half. The third quarter saw Chicago only make up one point before evaporating a seven point deficit and outscoring Toronto 32-13 in the final 12 minutes to seal the win.
“They are one of the best defensive teams in the league. I thought we went toe-to-toe with them until that mark and that’s when they turned it up,” said Raptors Head Coach Dwane Casey. “We didn’t execute. I thought we had some good looks in those situations but we didn’t knock them down. They came out and made tough shots.”
“It’s not an accident that they have the best record in the league and they did it when they had to. That’s what we have to learn how to do. We’ve got to learn how to make those easy shots, know how to take care of the ball and not have crucial turnovers in that stretch of the game. We always have a stretch that comes up to bite us.”
On Tuesday night, Toronto managed to stay relatively close into the fourth quarter in New York against the Knicks before having the game completely fall apart in a disappointing 106-87 loss. Against the Bulls the Raptors were decked out in camouflage jerseys on its annual Canadian Forces Appreciation Night and in front of the home crowd came out with a better performance but the fourth quarter troubles continued.
“I don't know what it is,” said James Johnson. “When we can start putting four quarters together we're going to be a tough team, but until then, we look immature out there and we look like we're not making game-winning plays down the stretch.”
Finding Ways to Win
DeMar DeRozan scored a game-high 23 points and added six rebounds. Other notable contributors for the Raptors included Johnson who added 16 points and seven rebounds against his former team while Jose Calderon, in his second game back from injury, dished out a game-high eight assists to go along with nine points. Linas Kleiza and Aaron Gray both came off the bench to haul down eight rebounds each.
The Bulls are now 11-4 without Rose in its lineup with the all-star missing his fifth straight game. Chicago was led by Luol Deng who recorded his eighth double-double of the season with team-highs 17 points and 10 rebounds. Guards Ronnie Brewer and C.J. Watson added 12 and 15 points, respectively.
Chicago’s bench was the key to the decisive run sparked by Kyle Korver, John Lucas III, Omer Asik and Taj Gibson. Lucas scored all his 13 points in the fourth quarter while Korver finished the game with 10.
“We stuck with it,” said Deng. “We are finding and learning ways to win. I really thought the first three quarters we didn’t play great. In the first half they got everything they wanted but they just missed some open shots. In the fourth quarter it was our will to find a way to win the game. The guys coming off the bench were great.”
Andrea Bargnani has struggled since his return from injury after missing 20 games due to a strained calf. He shot just 2-of-10 to finish with eight points, six assists and five rebounds. Casey downplayed Bargnani’s offensive struggles but the Italian was blunt about his play in eight games since returning to the lineup
“Offensively, I'm playing bad,” said Bargnani. “That's it. I'm trying to do other stuff, play defence, make an extra pass.
“The injury's fine, the leg is fine. Of course I don’t have the rhythm. I'm playing really bad offensively.”
The injury bug has claimed guard Jerryd Bayless once again. Bayless injured his hip against the Knicks the night before and was forced to leave the game. He dressed on Wednesday night and attempted to play but exited after the first quarter due to a left hip pointer.
The Raptors hope to have Bayless back in the lineup on Friday night when the team welcomes the return of Lin-sanity to Toronto. Jeremy Lin hit a game-winning three-pointer at the buzzer in front of a sold-out ACC the last time the Knicks paid a visit in what was the height of the point guard’s popularity.
Toronto then heads out on the road to wrap up its season series with Chicago on Saturday night before returning for a five-game home stand.
Aman Dhanoa is a Toronto sports beat reporter covering games live and bringing Digital Journal insights from within the locker room.
This article was originally published on Oye! Times
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