TORONTO — Copying a template they seemingly mastered last season, the Bulls (4-3) used stout team defense and balanced scoring — all five starters scored in double figures and the defense held the opposition to 35.4 percent field-goal shooting — to defeat the Raptors (4-6), 96-80, Friday night at the Air Canada Centre, in Derrick Rose’s first absence of the regular season.
Despite not having Rose, who was sidelined with a right-hamstring injury, the Bulls jumped out to a quick start, sparked by the All-Star duo of small forward Luol Deng (19 points, nine rebounds) and center Joakim Noah (18 points, nine rebounds).
Noah’s offensive game was in sync, Deng handled primary scoring duties and Carlos Boozer (14 points, eight rebounds, six assists) had a nice all-around opening period, putting up eight points, five assists and four rebounds. Coupled with strong defense, the Bulls built a double-digit lead and after a quarter of play, they held a 27-16 advantage.
The Bulls’ lead further ballooned at the outset of the second quarter, as the second unit, led by second-year point guard Marquis Teague, who was opportunistic as a scorer, utilizing his open-court speed. Taj Gibson, the team’s top reserve, also played his part, impacting the game on the interior to help give the Bulls a comfortable cushion.
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Raptors swingmen Rudy Gay (20 points) and DeMar DeRozan (career-high 37 points) managed to produce points — though rather inefficiently, as indicated by Toronto’s 25.6 percent first-half shooting from the floor — to keep the game from getting out of hand, but the Bulls still managed to take a 45-31 edge into the intermission.
After the break, things remained largely the same, as Jimmy Butler (14 points, seven rebounds) got it going offensively and the forward tandem of Duke products Boozer and Deng continued to be effective. Meanwhile, Toronto’s offensive woes persisted, as DeRozan was the only Raptors player remotely effective as a scoring threat in the third period.
Heading into the final stanza, the Bulls led, 74-54, as veteran Kirk Hinrich (12 points, four assists), filling in for Rose, guided the team.
DeRozan remained on fire at the outset of the fourth quarter, hitting high degree-of-difficulty jumpers with Bulls defenders draped all over him, yet his individual effort didn’t make much of a dent on the scoreboard. Although the Raptors played the Bulls basically even in the frame, they had too much ground to make up for it to matter.
Although the Bulls didn’t exactly play stellar basketball down the stretch and never quite figured a way to cool off the red-hot DeRozan, solid overall defense and timely scoring were enough to close out the victory.