Raptors brace for defensive-minded Bulls

The Toronto Raptors return home from a 2-3 road trip Wednesday night to host the Chicago Bulls, who will be seeking a sixth straight road win.
Raptors forward Amir Johnson (15) soars to the basket in a 77-64 loss at Chicago on Jan. 14. (Gary Dineen/Getty Images)

With Derrick Rose out, the Chicago Bulls have kept on winning by stepping up their defensive effort.

The Bulls may be without Rose again as they seek a sixth straight road victory Wednesday night against the Toronto Raptors.

The Raptors (15-31) are trying to avoid a third straight loss overall as they return home from a 2-3 road trip that concluded Tuesday with a 106-87 loss at New York.

Jose Calderon returned from a five-game absence due to a sprained ankle and had 11 points and nine assists, but backup Jerryd Bayless was lost to a left hip pointer in the second half.

Bayless, who averaged 21.8 points on 54.3 percent shooting while starting in place of Calderon the previous five games, had seven points, four assists and two steals in 13 minutes before leaving Tuesday. His status for Wednesday is uncertain.

After scoring more than 100 points the previous two games, Toronto struggled offensively, going 2 of 13 from three-point range.

"I think we just didn't execute the way we were supposed to and we got a couple of turnovers in a row," Calderon said.

It also marked the fifth time in seven games the Raptors gave up at least 105 points.

Rose has missed Chicago's last four games due to a groin injury and has been sidelined for 14 contests overall this season. But the Bulls have held up just fine, going 10-4 without him in 2011-12, and winning three of the last four including Monday's 85-59 rout at Orlando.

The Bulls (38-10), who have also defeated division leaders Philadelphia and Miami during the current stretch, gave up the fewest points in a regular season game in franchise history against the Magic. They turned 19 Orlando turnovers into 25 points and held the Magic to 35.3 per cent shooting.

"The real story honestly is our defence," said Carlos Boozer, who had 24 points and 13 rebounds for Chicago.

"That was probably one of the best performances we've had this season. It was fitting because they kicked our butt in Chicago [and] got a big win.

"For us to come back and do this … it's a big win for us."

The Bulls have also received a lift off the bench from John Lucas, who scored 20 points Monday while shooting 4 of 7 from 3-point range. He's averaging 14.5 points over the last four games — more than double his season mark.

The Raptors know all about the Bulls' defence and depth. Chicago defeated Toronto 77-64 at the United Center on Jan. 14, when Lucas had 10 points and fellow reserve Taj Gibson added 11 points and 12 rebounds off the bench.

This is the first of two meetings between the teams this week as Toronto will visit Chicago again Saturday. The Bulls have no games between now and then, meaning the option of resting Rose the rest of the week may be attractive.

"I haven't been able to run," Rose told the Bulls' official website Monday. "The biggest thing is just staying strong mentally.

"We're playing good right now. It's definitely hurting me, but I'm keeping a positive attitude."

The Bulls have won five of six against the Raptors, including the last two, but lost their most recent visit to Toronto — a 118-113 defeat Feb. 23, 2011.

The Raptors are 7-14 at home this season. They host the Knicks on Friday before travelling to Chicago for Saturday's rematch.