Raptors hold off Bulls' late charge

CHICAGO -- The Toronto Raptors have little to gain during the final days of the season, but coach Dwane Casey pushed his players to show some fight, and they responded Tuesday.

DeMar DeRozan scored 20 points, and the Raptors survived a crazy finish to pull out a 101-98 victory over the Chicago Bulls at the United Center.

"The key word is competing," Casey said. "It's that time of year, you need the guys to come out and lay it on the line. We're out of contention for the playoffs, and you just have to come out and play with pride. I thought tonight we came out and showed that and toughness."

After leading by 16 points with just over eight minutes remaining, Toronto watched the advantage shrink to two in the final minute.

With the Bulls trailing 101-97 and 10.6 seconds left, Chicago guard Nate Robinson went to the foul line, made the first shot and missed the second. The rebound was tipped onto the baseline, and after watching a video replay, the referees called for a jump ball.

Toronto won the tap easily but couldn't control the ball. Bulls forward Carlos Boozer picked it up and from his knees fired a pass to Robinson at the top of the key. The ball slipped through Robinson's hands, however. Robinson avoided a backcourt violation by saving it off Toronto's Amir Johnson. Robinson picked it up, but his potential tying 3-pointer from just inside half-court was not close.

"I took my eyes off the ball," Robinson said. "I saw Kirky (Hinrich) to my left wide open. So when Booz threw me the ball, he threw it fast, but I was in pass motion to throw it to Kirk. I took my eyes off it, and the ball almost went backcourt."

Rudy Gay added 19 points for the Raptors. Johnson, Kyle Lowry and Terrence Ross scored 13 points each.

Raptors rookie center Jonas Valanciunas was injured during the jump ball late in the game. While the other players left the court, Valanciunas sat on the Toronto bench, was placed in a neck brace and then wheeled off on a gurney. There was no immediate word on his condition.

Toronto had its shooting touch from the opening tip. The Raptors raced to an 18-3 lead, hitting seven of their first nine shots from the field.

"We had a bad game in Milwaukee, and we wanted to get that taste out of our mouths," Lowry said. "Winning a game here is unbelievably great for us. It's a tough place to play.

"These core guys that we have, most of us will be back next year. So finishing on a high note, get a little bit of good feeling going into the offseason and come back next year excited to come back."

By halftime, the short-handed Bulls trimmed the lead to 54-50, but the stat sheet provided a good indication of how the game was going for Toronto. The Raptors shot 54.1 percent in the first half, and just 20 of their 54 points were scored in the paint. The outside jumpers were falling all night long.

Toronto built an even larger lead in the third quarter, pulling ahead 76-60 with 3:26 left on a Gay 3-pointer. The advantage was 91-75 with 8:16 left in the game when the Bulls made a push.

Robinson capped a 10-0 run with a 3-point basket that pulled Chicago within 91-85 with 5:34 left. Toronto responded with a Valanciunas pump-fake and driving slam, and then a baseline drive by Lowry sent the lead back to 10 points.

A Robinson 3-pointer, followed by two free throws from Boozer, brought the Bulls within 99-97 with 16.8 seconds left. DeRozan hit two at the line to send the lead back to four points with 13.4 remaining.

Chicago's Jimmy Butler scored a career-high 28 points, Robinson had 22, and Boozer finished with 19 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists.

After starting Robinson at shooting guard on Sunday at Detroit, Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau thought the move messed up the team's second unit. Marco Belinelli was the starter Tuesday. However, after missing seven of the eight previous games with an abdominal strain, Belinelli had trouble keeping up with the Raptors' athletic lineup.

"You can choose how you're going to approach this," Thibodeau said. "You can say, 'Hey, we've got injuries, we're down, new rotation, whatever.' But you want mentally tough people when you're facing adversity. We've got to be a lot tougher mentally, and we've got to get the job done."

The Bulls (42-34) have been tough to figure out all season. They are just 22-17 at home, with losses to many of the league's worst teams -- Charlotte, New Orleans, Phoenix, Cleveland, Portland and now Toronto.

At the same time, Chicago is 5-1 against Eastern Conference leaders Miami and New York, and it won three of four games against potential first-round playoff opponent Brooklyn.

NOTES: Just last week, Thibodeau told reporters that Richard Hamilton was not close to returning from a back injury. So it was a mild surprise when Hamilton played against Toronto, his first game action since Feb. 26. "He's been out a long time, so there's going to be some rust, but he's an excellent playmaker, so he has the ability to make other people better," Thibodeau said before the game. Hamilton scored four points in 14 minutes. ... The Bulls played without Luol Deng (sore hip), Joakim Noah (plantar fasciitis), Taj Gibson (knee sprain) and Derrick Rose (knee surgery). ... Chicago center Nazr Mohammed flew to Atlanta after Monday's practice to catch the NCAA title game. Mohammed played for Louisville coach Rick Pitino at Kentucky. ... The two teams meet again Friday in Toronto.