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Raptors send Bulls to their second straight home loss

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Boosting a somewhat full roster – excluding Derrick Rose and Marquis Teague – the Bulls fell to the surging Toronto Raptors 85-79 on New Year’s Eve for their second straight home loss.

The loss was the fifth time this season that they've scored under 80 points, going without a win in those contests

Entering the fourth quarter with a 62-57 lead, the Bulls (12-18) couldn’t find the basket, missing 12 of their first 14 shots as the Raptors went on a 21-4 run. Despite that they had managed to close a 10-point deficit down to three with 1:24 remaining, but couldn’t find any offense afterwards as the Raptors closed the game at the free throw line.

The Bulls shot 16.7 percent in the fourth quarter and 28.6 total in the second half. For the game, they managed just 36.6 and fell to 1-12 when that occurs.

“We just weren’t executing, we weren’t guarding and that can never be good,” Jimmy Butler said. “For us, I think it starts on defense as in that transitions over to our offense. But we weren’t doing either the way we’re capable of.”

The starters for the Bulls shot a combined 15-for-55 as the reserves went 15-for 27.

In his first game back after missing the previous five with a sore left Achilles, Luol Deng scored a team-high 16 points.

“It was the end of the third quarter and the start of the fourth; that’s what got us,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. “The problem started when we broke the lineup. Our bench played very well in the second quarter. When guys miss that amount of time and come back, it takes time to get their rhythm. That is what opens up the inside. We had a hard time scoring. The fourth quarter has got to be your best quarter. You have to have more intensity and your decisions have to be quicker. We have to finish strong. We can’t just flip the ball up there.”

Thibodeau was referring to the numerous point-blank misses and tip-ins the Bulls just couldn’t convert to stop the bleeding in the fourth.

After a miserable first quarter, in which they shot only 33 percent and found themselves down 21-16, the Bulls opened the second with a 16-2 run that propelled them to a 42-37 lead at the half. Their lead grew to as many as nine in the third period, but Toronto was never out of the game as they weren’t seeing much resistance defensively.

Jonas Valaciunas led Toronto with 15 points and Kyle Lowry added 13 for the Raptors who have now won five of their last six games and lead the Atlantic Division.

“It’s the rhythm,” Deng said. “We’ve got guys in and out (of the rotation). We have to do a better job of playing together, knowing what our strength is and getting better as a team. We’ve shown that there are games we can score. We’ve shown that when healthy, we move the ball and play well. I just thought tonight we were out of rhythm a little bit.”

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