Photo credit: Ron Turenne/NBAE
After the lackluster defensive effort from the Toronto in their last two games on the road, the Raptors were looking to rebound (literally!) from those defeats and get a win at home against the visiting Chicago Bulls before they went back out on the road for 4 more games.
After allowing the Bulls to score 60 first half points (and 35 in the 2nd quarter!) it didn't look like anything was going to change for the Raptors from a defensive stand point. Scoring has not been a problem for Toronto this season, as they've scored at least 100 points in every game - the problem was they have been allowing the opposition to score just as many points or more by not committing to giving 100% on the defensive end of the floor.
Raptors coach Jay Triano lit into them at half time noting "The Bulls only average 88 points, and they already have 60 at half!". The Raptors took heed to that and came out in the second half showing defensive pride, something Raptors analyst Leo Rautins noted as a necessary focal point before the game, and held the Bulls to a total of 29, yes *29*, second half points!
The Chicago Bulls proceeded to miss their final 15 shots and did not score a field goal for the final 9 minutes and 21 seconds of the game. This could have been a result of fatigue from playing the 2nd of back-to-back games, but regardless, the Raptors committed to playing defense both on the perimeter and in the paint, jumping in passing lanes for steals, and hitting the glass on both ends of the floor.
Despite not giving a strong defensive effort in the first half, the Raptors were able to regroup for the final 24 minutes against a seemingly weary Chicago Bulls team. The result was a 99-89 win for the Raptors in front of an appreciative home crowd.
The focus on defense will have to continue for Toronto as they embark on a 4 game road trip where they will face the L.A. Clippers, Phoenix Suns, Denver Nuggets, and the Utah Jazz.
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