TORONTO — The next time Vinny Del Negro talks about "getting after it defensively," smile, nod your head and go back to dreaming about the Bulls playing with a red-white-and-blue basketball.
ABA-type shootouts are the norm now, no matter if the coach tries to say otherwise.
A furious fourth-quarter rally couldn't overcome a brutal defensive performance through three quarters as the Bulls fell 134-129 in overtime to the Raptors on Sunday at the Air Canada Centre.
The Pistons' victory over the 76ers pushed the Bulls one game behind Detroit in the race for the Eastern Conference's seventh seed.
Derrick Rose took the blame for the loss, pointing his finger inward because he missed a wide-open layup that could have changed the final seconds of regulation and then turned it over with the Bulls down two and 8.9 seconds left in overtime.
"Because of me we lost this game," Rose said. "It's real tough, especially because we're pushing for the playoffs. My teammates played hard. It seemed like I let them down."
The real culprits were two season-long problem areas, poor transition defense and slow weak-side help, as the Raptors scored an opponent's season high and shot 54.3 percent.
"It definitely wasn't a defensive effort by either team," Del Negro said.
The Bulls trailed by 18 early in the fourth quarter and 107-93 with 6:19 left in regulation when the comeback began.
Ben Gordon, who scored 17 of his 37 points in the fourth, started it with a jumper and eventually pulled the Bulls within 114-113 with 1:16 left on a fall-away jumper.
After the teams traded baskets, the Bulls called time out to set up Gordon, who missed a jumper. But Kirk Hinrich rebounded the miss and fed a streaking Rose — who blew the layup. Tyrus Thomas gathered the loose ball but had his shot blocked by Shawn Marion.
"Never, ever," Rose said when asked if he'd ever missed such a critical shot. "That's why I put this game on me."
Jose Calderon, who had 22 points and a career-high 19 assists, sank both free throws with 8.2 seconds left to make it 118-115.
The Raptors chose to foul Rose intentionally with 6.6 seconds left instead of letting Gordon shoot a three-pointer. Rose made both.
After Anthony Parker split two free throws with six seconds left, the Bulls pushed the ball upcourt, and Gordon hit a ridiculous 22-footer over Chris Bosh at the buzzer to force overtime.
"I wanted to be aggressive," Gordon said.
The Bulls led by four early in overtime, but Marion scored, Thomas took the first of two ill-advised shots and Andrea Bargnani, who scored 28, buried a huge three for a 126-125 lead.
After four straight scoreless possessions, Rose scored and appeared to be fouled with 28.9 seconds left. The Bulls' bench then erupted when official Joe DeRosa whistled Rose for fouling Bosh as he tipped home his own miss with 14.8 seconds left.
Bosh, who scored 31, made his free throw, Rose committed his turnover and the fouling began.
"He's young and he's got to learn," Del Negro said of Rose. "The more we put him in those situations, he'll start making those. I loved his aggressiveness. We just have to convert."Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times