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Raptors-Bulls Preview

AP - Sports

Protecting home court is obviously one of the biggest priorities for any team with playoff aspirations. The Chicago Bulls are not having any trouble with that objective.

Derrick Rose looks to help the Bulls open 5-0 at home for the first time in more than 15 years Saturday night against the struggling Toronto Raptors.

Rose sat out Chicago's last home game, a 78-64 win over Washington on Wednesday, with a sprained left big toe. He returned Friday in Boston, and didn't seem to have any problems despite being a game-time decision, finishing with 25 points and seven assists in an 88-79 win.

The Bulls (11-2), who led by as many as 20, saw their lead trimmed to one with 10 minutes remaining, but that's when Rose took over. The reigning league MVP scored Chicago's next seven points to help lift the team to a fourth consecutive victory and 10th in 11 games.

Rose said he was tentative at first to see how his toe felt but didn't report any pain.

"Not really,'' said Rose, who had 12 points after the lead fell to one. "It's probably because my adrenaline was going and I wanted to win.''

The Bulls now return to the United Center, where they've won their first four games by an average of 20.0 points. Chicago, which also opened the 1997-98 season with four straight home victories, hasn't started a season with five consecutive wins at the United Center since opening 7-0 in 1996.

The Bulls, winners of 30 of their last 32 regular-season home games, won both meetings with the Raptors in 2010-11 on the United Center floor and took three of four in the season series. They averaged 111.8 points in the four games, their highest-scoring output against any Eastern Conference opponent

Carlos Boozer averaged 22.0 points and 10.3 rebounds, and Rose combined for 68 points and 20 assists in the final two meetings - a 118-113 loss in Toronto on Feb. 23 and a 113-106 home win on April 2.

The Raptors (4-8) play for the seventh time in nine days and open a three-game trip. They're coming off Friday's 95-90 loss to Indiana, a game they played without leading scorer Andrea Bargnani (strained left calf).

DeMar DeRozan picked up the scoring slack early, finishing with 14 first-quarter points, but only scored nine more the rest of the way.

The Raptors are hopeful Bargnani, who is averaging 22.3 points, can return Saturday because scoring on Chicago has been very difficult.

The Bulls are allowing a league-low 85.3 points and have been significantly better at home, yielding an average of 67.5 points on 33.9 percent shooting.

Bargnani played in two games against the Bulls last season, totaling 47 points and 14 rebounds.

Aside from playing almost every night, the Raptors have had trouble with a relatively easy schedule, and that doesn't bode well with the competition about to get significantly tougher.

Toronto has lost three straight and five of six, with three of those defeats coming to New Jersey, Washington and Sacramento. After Chicago, the Raptors head to Atlanta on Monday and Boston on Wednesday before returning home to play Portland on Friday.

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