Chicago Bulls continue to have Raptors’ number

TORONTO — Beware the wounded bear . . . or in this case just beware the .

It really doesn’t seem to matter who plays for the Bulls or who doesn’t. They just seem to have the Raptors’ number and that trend continued last night despite the absences of , , Mike Dunleavy and Joakim Noah to a variety of ailments and illnesses.

For the ninth consecutive meeting between these two clubs, the Raptors came out on the short end, this time of a 109-107 final that is sure to have the fan base in full panic mode.

That it was just the 21st loss of the season in 65 games for Toronto will be lost because this Bulls team is one the Raptors just can’t seem to beat and could wind up being that first round opponent once the playoffs do arrive.

A lot has to happen before it comes to that but that won’t stop the fan base from reaching for the worry beads.

That’s the nature of sport and fandom and has been and will be forever more.

Within the locker room, the loss hurt, not because it was the ninth in a row against the Bulls, but because it was a loss.

Bottom line the Raptors didn’t play well on this night and that didn’t sit well with them.

“The lesson to take from this is not being aggressive (hurts us) and that started with me,” Kyle Lowry said. “We started the game out relaxed and not being aggressive and not being defensive minded so I take a little bit of that on me.”

Lowry just feels the Raptors need to make things a little more uncomfortable for the Bulls who seem to genuinely like playing them.

“They are comfortable playing against us and we don’t do anything to make them uncomfortable on defence,” he said. “They are aggressive and they get the shots they want. Tonight they just played a great game and everyone (in that lineup) stepped up.”

As deflating as the outcome was, it could have been much worse with Jonas Valanciunas leaving the game in the first quarter and not returning with an injured hand, the same hand he broke earlier this year.

Valanciunas underwent x-rays which proved negative. After the game the hand was heavily bandaged and swollen but just bruised, not broken.

He travelled with the team to Milwaukee where they take on the Bucks tonight. When he gets back on the court will be determined on a day by day basis.

The Raptors won’t have a lot of time to digest this one and maybe that’s for the best.

“It sucks,” Patrick Patterson said of the long losing streak against the Bulls. “It’s one of those teams that we don’t seem able to beat. At the end of the day we play them tough, some games we have leads, but when the buzzer goes off they always just seem to beat us.”

“It just seems like they are our kryptonite per se and we just can’t seem to get over that hump,” Patterson said.

Raptors head coach alluded to it following shoot around Monday morning when he said: “Every time we’ve played them somebody’s come in and had an out-of-body experience.”

Monday night it was Doug McDermott’s turn for the second time this season as he came off the bench and shot 9-for-10 from the field including a perfect four-for-four from behind the arc for a 29-point game in the win.

McDermott this season has three 20-or-better scoring games, two of them, last night and a 30-point night in February, came against Toronto.

And while McDermott was doing the lion’s share of the damage he was getting some pretty decent offensive support form E’Twuan Moore and Nikola Mirotic who were a combined 13-for-23 from the field for 34 points between them.

It seemed every time the Raptors made a run to get the deficit down to a point where it looked like they were back in the game, the Bulls had a response.

For the first half it was almost exclusively McDermott doing the work. But from that point on all of Moore, Mirotic, Justin Holiday, and Jimmy Butler took a turn grabbing back the momentum.

The Raptors had multiple chances the send the game into overtime or win it in the 30 seconds but were turned away each time.

had the final chance as he went end-to-end with Butler right on his hip. As soon as he brought the ball up to attempt the lay-in, Butler got his hand up and knocked it off DeRozan’s knee and out of bounds to seal the game.

The fact that Toronto still came up short with pretty big offensive nights from its two primary scorers has to be concerning.

Lowry had 33 and DeRozan had 27 in the game and they still couldn’t get past an undermanned Chicago team.

You can say it was just one of 82, but because it was the Bulls and because of the Raptors inability to beat them in three seasons and especially because they could be a first round matchup in the playoffs, this one took on a little more importance than another game.

The mental hurdle alone of getting past the Bulls is something that could have been accomplished last night with a win.

The game wound up a seven game home stand with the Raptors winning five of the seven including solid wins over both Atlanta and Miami, but there is no question this was a missed opportunity.

It’s not the end of the world, but it would have been nice once and for all to get a wian against a team that just seems to have the Raptors’ number.

[email protected]

About Glen Miller