A closed-door meeting following an embarrassing defensive effort seemed to work wonders for the Toronto Raptors. The Chicago Bulls have a different solution for their problems - finally getting back home.
After playing seven of their past eight games on the road, the Bulls return to the United Center on Saturday night looking to end a four-game skid against the Raptors while opening a stretch of eight of nine at home.
Chicago (7-10) had won six of its first 10 before embarking on its annual circus road trip, but came back home Wednesday having dropped the final five games of the six-game trek.
The Bulls pulled out a 92-85 win over Detroit that night - improving to 5-1 at home - before heading to Cleveland on Friday to conclude their road-heavy stretch. The tired-looking club was within one point at halftime, but was outscored by 13 from there in a 101-87 loss to the Cavaliers.
“Good teams usually come out and try to take control of the game in the third quarter,” Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro said. “They did that. We weren’t able to bounce back and the lead got out of hand a little bit.”
While Chicago was certainly outplayed in the second half Friday, its first meeting with Toronto (8-13) featured a much more painful collapse. The Bulls led by three with 6:24 remaining in the fourth quarter Nov. 11 at Air Canada Centre, but the Raptors scored the next 14 points in a 99-89 win.
“It’s real frustrating knowing that we had the game,” point guard Derrick Rose(notes) said at the time. “We started off well, played defense. To have to lose by not making shots toward the end kind of hurt.”
Toronto was able to stifle the Bulls down the stretch that night, but its defense has been generally atrocious all season. The Raptors allow an Eastern Conference-worst 110.8 points, and gave up the second-most point in franchise history Wednesday in a 146-115 loss at Atlanta, their fifth straight.
A closed-door meeting followed Friday morning, and that night it appeared to pay off. Chris Bosh(notes), who had scored two points against the Hawks, had 31 points and 16 rebounds and Toronto knocked off Washington 109-107 in overtime.
“No matter what happened today, we have to be satisfied how we stuck together,” said Bosh, who’s averaged 26.7 points and 15.0 rebounds in the Raptors’ last three wins over the Bulls. “The bench was into it. Everybody was into it. We have to do that for the rest of the season if we want to be successful.”
Despite Bosh’s excellence, the biggest reason for Toronto’s four-game winning streak versus Chicago has been Jose Calderon(notes). The point guard, who went a career-high 124 minutes without a turnover before losing the ball in the third quarter Friday in Washington, has averaged 19.3 points and 12.3 assists, shooting 72.1 percent, in his past four contests against the Bulls.
His counterpart hasn’t been bad, either. Rose has averaged 18.8 points and 8.0 assists in five career games versus Toronto.
John Salmons(notes), on the other hand, hasn’t made any difference in three games against the Raptors since the Bulls acquired him at last season’s February trade deadline. Salmons, shooting 38.7 percent this season, has averaged 6.7 points on 20.0 percent shooting in three games versus Toronto while with the Bulls.