Bulls outlast Raptors for win

SportsChicago BullsMorris PetersonUnited CenterChris DuhonLuol DengAnthony Parker

The blowouts have been nice confidence-builders for a team that could have splintered if it were more fragile.

But Friday's game at the United Center is more what the NBA is about: expending the blood and sweat necessary to scratch out a victory on a night a team doesn't play its best.

The Bulls failed to score more than 100 points—ending a streak of eight such games in a row—but they still managed to post their seventh consecutive victory with a hard-fought 93-90 decision over the Raptors.

The Bulls are now above .500 for the first time since winning the opener in Miami and have matched last season's record after 19 games.

"It ain't always going to be pretty, but good teams find ways to win ugly games," Ben Wallace said. "These build character. You'll be in more games like this than blowouts anyway."

Kirk Hinrich supplied the blood—and 13 points and six assists—when T.J. Ford inadvertently kicked him in the nose attempting a third-quarter steal. Hinrich returned from his gusher, wearing gauze in his nostril, to score seven straight fourth-quarter points.

Luol Deng and Andres Nocioni supplied the sweat, particularly on a night the Bulls looked sluggish early.

Deng scored 25 points, including a tough baseline jumper over Morris Peterson for an 89-83 lead, for his 19th straight game in double figures.

Nocioni added 17 points, 14 rebounds and two blocks, including a spike of an Anthony Parker jumper that went over the Bulls' bench with 1 minute 49 seconds to play.

But the Raptors, led by Jorge Garbajosa's 17 points, wouldn't go away.

Ben Gordon, on the bench for 7:38 and just 3 of 12 to that point, drained a jumper 10 seconds after entering for a 91-88 lead with 64 seconds remaining.

"I knew I was going to make it," Gordon said before cracking a smile. "I was kind of [angry] I was on the bench."

But Gordon followed with a wild miss and then Morris Peterson drained a jumper with 18.2 seconds remaining. Toronto fouled Chris Duhon, who made his first trip to the line and swished both attempts.

Under pressure from Deng, Peterson them missed a three-point attempt and Ford's desperation heave at the buzzer after he chased down the rebound went long.

"You have to win those games," coach Scott Skiles said. "They add up at the end of the year. I was just perplexed why we started so flat."

The Bulls trailed 29-19 after one quarter. Trailing 20-15, Skiles sent Michael Sweetney, P.J. Brown and Thabo Sefolosha in following a timeout, shortly after Wallace failed to jump for a defensive rebound that Rasho Nesterovic snagged.

Wallace rebounded to tally five points, 11 rebounds and five of the Bulls' 12 blocks.

"Ben really picked it up," Skiles said.

kcjohnson@tribune.com

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