When Chicago ended a 16-game losing streak to Toronto more than four years ago, the win began a run of complete Bulls domination in the series. Now Chicago looks to equal the Raptors’ earlier win streak against it when the teams meet at the United Center on Tuesday night.
The Bulls ended the Raptors’ run in the series with a 96-83 victory on Dec. 18, 2002. That win, Chicago’s first over Toronto since Feb. 28, 1999, was the first of 15 in a row for the Bulls against the Raptors.
Chicago (29-23) took the first two meetings this season, and brings the Eastern Conference’s best home record into Tuesday’s contest as it tries to match Toronto’s earlier string of head-to-head domination.
The Bulls should be happy to be home after completing a 3-4 road trip against Western Conference opponents. Chicago closed out the stretch on a high note, defeating Pacific Division-leading Phoenix 116-103 on Sunday. The win snapped a three-game losing streak that included a five-point loss to Utah and an overtime defeat to Golden State.
“It’s been a pretty tough road trip with some losses we feel like we should have won,” Bulls coach Scott Skiles said. “It would have been very easy for the guys to just look forward to going home and not bring it, but we brought it.”
Skiles’ team plays six of its next nine games at the United Center, where it is 20-6, after the seven-game road swing that tied the Bulls’ longest of the season. Chicago has won three straight and five of its last six at home.
Kirk Hinrich and Luol Deng had 29 points apiece and Ben Gordon added 27 for the Bulls on Sunday. Chicago shot 50.6 percent from the field and held the Suns, who played without reigning two-time MVP Steve Nash, to 40.7 percent.
“Guys just don’t want to end a road trip on a bad note,” Gordon said. “Not that we weren’t trying to win the other games. Obviously, we were. But guys were trying to grind it out. I think that shows a lot about this team. We didn’t just lie down and try to get it over with. We came out to compete.”
While the Bulls are in third place in the Central Division, the Raptors (27-24) have taken advantage of a weak Atlantic Division and jumped into first place, 2 1/2 games ahead of New Jersey.
Toronto has matched its win total from last season and has won 10 of its last 13 games, including four of six on the road. The Raptors haven’t been over .500 this late in the season since 2002, when they finished 42-40.
Toronto had a season-high five-game win streak snapped Saturday with a 98-92 loss at Detroit. T.J. Ford had 17 points and 11 assists for Toronto, but All-Star forward Chris Bosh was held to 14 points on 5-of-15 shooting.
Bosh came in averaging 31.0 points on 61.5 percent shooting during the win streak, including a career-high 41 points against Orlando on Feb. 7.
“They beat us,” coach Sam Mitchell said. “I’m not making excuses, but give credit where credit is due. They’ve been playing well and we’ve been playing well and they beat us in a close game on their floor.”
Deng had 25 points and seven rebounds to lead Chicago to a 107-97 victory Dec. 29 in the last meeting between these teams. Bosh missed that game with a knee injury. He’s averaging 16.8 points and 8.1 rebounds in 11 career games against the Bulls—all losses.
The clubs close out the season series in Toronto on April 8.