Bulls fall to Raptors, drop to sixth in conference
BY JOE COWLEY firstname.lastname@example.org April 12, 2013 8:58PM
Toronto Raptors forward Rudy Gay (22) defends against Chicago Bulls forward Carlos Boozer during the first half of an NBA basketball game action in Toronto on Friday, April 12, 2013. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Frank Gunn)
Updated: May 14, 2013 6:21AM
TORONTO — The Bulls will begin the playoffs on the road, and they might face an opponent they’d prefer to avoid.
That’s what they’re facing after a 97-88 loss to the Toronto Raptors on Friday dropped them into sixth in the Eastern Conference, a half-game behind the Atlanta Hawks, who beat the Milwaukee Bucks.
The Brooklyn Nets beat the Indiana Pacers to assure themselves at least the No. 4 seed and home-court advantage in the first round.
The Pacers own the third spot, and if the standings hold, they’d face the Bulls in Round 1. The Pacers beat the Bulls in the season series 3-1.
The Bulls took three of four from Nets.
“I didn’t like to see that type of effort,’’ Thibodeau said of the Bulls’ fourth loss in their last five meetings with lottery-bound teams. “You play for each other, and that commitment has to be made by everybody. If we don’t do that, we’re not going to give ourselves a chance to win. We’re short-handed, our chances are intensity and doing everything collectively.
“If we do that, we have a chance to win. If we don’t, if someone wants to stand outside the circle, it’s going to break everyone down.’’
Thibodeau wondered how his team went from ending the New York Knicks’ 13-game winning streak Thursday to struggling against the Raptors.
“That’s the nature of the league,’’ Thibodeau said. “What happened [Thursday] had little bearing [on Friday], other than you’ve got to be ready to play.’’
Otherwise, momentum fades quickly.
“We just didn’t play well [Friday], for whatever reason,’’ guard Kirk Hinrich said. “Everyone plays 82, so you can’t blame it on the schedule. We just didn’t play well.’’
The Bulls were thin up front once again without Taj Gibson (left knee) and Joakim Noah (plantar fasciitis in right foot), and for the second time in a week, the Raptors took advantage. Especially when Carlos Boozer, who finished with a team-high 19 points, got into foul trouble.
The last thing Nazr Mohammed wanted to talk about, though, was excuses.
“No buts,’’ he said. “We don’t use excuses. They won, they made shots, we didn’t. We didn’t execute the way we normally do.’’
That meant having trouble containing forwards Rudy Gay and Amir Johnson, who combined for 47 points.
“We’re down the bigs up front, and Carlos getting into foul trouble hurt us because you then have to get away from some of the schemes that we’re in when we’re small like that,’’ Thibodeau said.
If that wasn’t enough, Rip Hamilton was ejected in the third quarter for throwing an elbow at DeMar DeRozan.
“I hate to see him get thrown out of a game. I thought it was a lot of grabbing and holding,’’ Thibodeau said. “We’ve got to handle that better. The calls didn’t go our way. We’re on the road, we’re not going to get calls, but sometimes that happens.’’