LIVE: Bulls look to extend East lead vs. Raptors

LIVE: Bulls look to extend East lead vs. Raptors
April 2, 2011, 3:34 pm
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Saturday, April 2, 2011
Posted: 10:49 a.m.
Associated Press
While many believe Derrick Rose is assured the MVP award, the Chicago Bulls likely need more victories to obtain the Eastern Conference's top seed in the postseason.

A visit from the struggling Toronto Raptors may help boost their chances.

Chicago looks to extend its lead atop the conference Saturday night when it hosts last-place Toronto.

With a victory, the Bulls (55-20) can pick up one-half game on Miami and Boston, which are both idle. They lead the second-place Heat by 2 12 games and the Celtics by three after beating Detroit 101-96 on Friday.

"Destiny is in our hands," Rose said. "We're just trying to finish the season strong."

Rose, who once again received chants of "M-V-P" throughout the game, scored a team-high 27 points and added seven assists. Rose is averaging 27.8 points and 9.8 assists over his last four games and has helped the Bulls win 14 of 16.

Chicago had won 14 in a row at home before a 97-85 loss to Philadelphia on Monday.

Carlos Boozer, who scored 22 points Friday, had a season-high 34 points and 12 rebounds Dec. 15 in a 110-93 win at Toronto.

"Carlos was outstanding," coach Tom Thibodeau said. "When he's getting into the post, Derrick is getting shots off the dribble and we have the pick and roll, we've got a lot of ways to get easy offense."

Boozer missed the most recent meeting with an ankle injury as Toronto overcame Rose's 32 points for a surprising 118-113 victory Feb. 23 - one of only four losses for the Bulls since Feb. 9.

However, the Raptors have won only four times since that victory.

Toronto (20-54) has lost 12 of 16 since beating Chicago and is limping toward the finish of its disappointing season. The Raptors lost point guard Jose Calderon to a strained hamstring Wednesday during their fifth straight loss, 104-98 to visiting Milwaukee.

Calderon won't travel to Chicago and is doubtful for Sunday's game against Orlando, giving backup Jerryd Bayless an opportunity to earn more playing time as the starter.

Bayless is averaging 14.4 points and 7.4 assists in seven starts for the Raptors this season compared to 6.6 and 3.0 in 56 games coming off the bench, which includes 11 games with New Orleans. Bayless came over in a trade Nov. 20.

"You know you're going to play and you're going to play a lot freer," Bayless said after practice Friday. "It's just different. I've been happy here whether it's starting or coming off the bench but I think anybody's going to play a little bit better when they're starting."

Andrea Bargnani returned to the lineup and scored 22 points after missing last Saturday's loss to the Los Angeles Clippers with a right ankle injury. Bargnani, averaging a career-high 21.8 points this season, scored 24 in the most recent win against the Bulls.

DeMar DeRozan, who scored 20 points Wednesday against the Bucks, also added 24 in the victory over Chicago.

The Bulls can tie San Antonio atop the league with their 33rd home victory, but Toronto has had some recent success at the United Center. The Raptors have won five of the last seven meetings in Chicago.

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