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Bulls edge Raptors in technical-filled battle

The SportsXchange

TORONTO -- The Chicago Bulls and the Toronto Raptors possess playoff aspirations, and they played Wednesday with playoff intensity.

The Bulls, who led by as many as 15 points, had just enough to hold off the Raptors 94-92 to win their fourth game in a row. The loss snapped the Raptors' three-game winning streak.

Forward Carlos Boozer led the Bulls (28-25) with 20 points. He also grabbed eight rebounds in a game that featured seven technical fouls, four on the Bulls.

"It wasn't a playoff atmosphere because of technicals, it was a playoff atmosphere because it was definitely a physical game, high intensity," said Bulls center Joakim Noah, who scored eight points and dished out 13 assists. "We know what we're playing for, and it was a big one for us."

Guard DeMar DeRozan led the Raptors (29-25) with 32 points but could not make a two shots late in the game.

"He's our go-to guy through the game," Raptors coach Dwane Casey said. "He gave us 32 points, and he's going to grow into that role of closing games, and that's something that he has to learn how to do."

DeRozan's shot with 2.9 seconds to play was blocked by guard/forward Jimmy Butler, who had 16 points, six assists and three blocks.

"DeRozan is a load, and I thought Jimmy defended him on several plays as well as you can," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said.

Guard D.J. Augustin, who opened the season with Toronto, and guard Kirk Hinrich each scored 19 points for the Bulls, while forward/center Taj Gibson had 10 points before fouling out. Forward Mike Dunleavy contributed 11 rebounds and two points.

"Mike didn't shoot well, but the 11 rebounds are huge," Thibodeau said.

Guard Kyle Lowry added 16 points for the Raptors before fouling out with 2.4 seconds to play with the Bulls leading by one point. Butler made one of two free throws, and DeRozan missed on a 43-foot desperation attempt at the buzzer.

"It was a big win, they were ahead of us in the standings, and we wanted to go into the break playing well and come out of the break playing well," Hinrich said. "It seemed like we got ahead and they really cranked it up. Played hard and physical, and it seemed like to me that they were trying to be conscious of being physical and trying to match our toughness."

Toronto reserve guard Greivis Vasquez, who scored seven points and committed four fouls, added, "We played a hard game, but you have to give them credit, they beat us and they played well. We played physical, too."

It was the first game for the Bulls since the All-Star break, while the Raptors played a road game Tuesday, defeating the Washington Wizards 103-93.

The teams split their four-game season series, each winning twice on the road.

The Raptors were down by 11 after Augustin opened the fourth quarter with a 3-pointer, but Toronto reduced its deficit to seven when forward Tyler Hansbrough made a hook shot with 8:23 to play.

The Raptors cut the lead to five on a jump shot by DeRozan. Augustin was called for a technical foul after his layup put the lead back to seven. DeRozan made the technical foul. Toronto retained the ball and got the lead down to four on a pull-up jumper by guard/forward Terrence Ross, who had nine points on the night.

Augustin answered with a 3-pointer, and Chicago led 89-82. Lowry made two free throws to reduce the lead to five, then hit a 3-point shot to bring the Raptors to within two with 1:30 to play. DeRozan missed a shot that could have tied it. Hinrich then hit a jumper to give the Bulls a four-point lead.

Forward Amir Johnson scored on a layup and made the free throw as Gibson fouled out, and Chicago led by one point with 34.9 seconds left. Butler blocked DeRozan's jump shot with 2.9 seconds left.

The Bulls led by 15 points in the third, but the Raptors finished the quarter with a 9-2 surge to cut the margin to 70-62.

"I do like the way we fought back," Casey said, "but that's not the way to live in the NBA. That was a playoff game, something our players have to get used to, that type of intensity, that type of physicality."

NOTES: The Bulls signed F Jarvis Varnado to a 10-day contract from the Iowa Energy, their NBA Development League affiliate. He previously played with the Miami Heat and Boston Celtics. "We followed him in college, and of course in the D-League, Boston and Miami," coach Tom Thibodeau said. "He's gotten better. He has a lot of the qualities that we're looking for." ... G DeMar DeRozan entered the All-Star break averaging 22.4 points a game. According to Elias, only two other Raptors, G Vince Carter (three times, including a club record 27.6 in 2000-01) and F Chris Bosh (five times), entered the break with a scoring average at least that high with at least 20 games played. ... The Raptors continue a three-game homestand Friday against the Cleveland Cavaliers. ... The Bulls return to the United Center on Friday to play the Denver Nuggets.
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