Bulls edge Raptors for seventh consecutive victory

CHICAGO (AP) -- No one needed to remind Luol Deng where the Chicago Bulls were just two weeks ago, when they were gripped by a six-game losing streak and wrapped in a headband controversy.

They batted away the negative vibe like a shot begging to be blocked, and now they're playing like Eastern Conference contenders.

Elias Says

Ben Wallace
Ben Wallace played 40 minutes in Chicago's victory against Toronto and he attempted only one field goal (he missed it). Over the last ten seasons, there were only two other instances in which a player logged at least 40 minutes and took no more than one shot from the field: Shawn Bradley did that for Dallas on Dec. 18, 2002 (44 minutes, one FGA) and Wallace did it for Detroit on March 15, 2002 (44 minutes, one FGA).

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Not that Friday's game was easy.

Deng scored 25 points and the Bulls hung on to beat the Toronto Raptors 93-90 for their seventh straight victory.

"We all know it's big for us," Deng said. "We just have to keep doing what we've been doing. We just have to be consistent and take advantage of it."

The Raptors' Morris Peterson and T.J. Ford missed potential tying 3-pointers in the final 13 seconds, and the Bulls improved to 10-9 on the season while extending their win streak over Toronto to 14.

Deng was 11-of-18, after scoring 21 points and grabbing 10 rebounds in Wednesday's 121-94 victory over Philadelphia. Andres Nocioni scored 13 of his 17 points in the third quarter, and grabbed 14 rebounds.

Kirk Hinrich did most of his scoring in the first five minutes of the fourth quarter, when he had nine of his 13 points.

Hinrich, who did not score against Philadelphia, hit a jumper and 3-pointer from the corner to make it 83-74 with 7:13. But the Raptors were within one after Anthony Parker's 3 from the corner with 1:14 left.

After a timeout, Ben Gordon (13 points) scored from the top of the key to make it a three-point game. The Raptors called time with 24 seconds left, and Peterson drove along the right side for a layup that pulled the Raptors within 91-90.

Chicago's Chris Duhon hit two free throws with 13 seconds left, but after a 20-second timeout, Peterson missed from the wing and Ford from the corner.

"I thought I got the best look that I could get," Peterson said. "We still had another chance -- another close one that we let slip away."

The Bulls exhaled and left the court with a 7-1 record at the United Center after winning the first four on this eight-game homestand. It's a big improvement for a team that was 21-20 at home last season.

"I think we're more mature," Deng said. "We're looking at the schedule and taking care of what we've got to do."

Added Nocioni: "We had to be prepared to win more games at home. We have been playing great, but we need to keep working hard every night."

Toronto's Chris Bosh had a difficult night.

Already wearing a brace on his right knee, the forward experienced soreness in his left knee in the first half and was 5-for-14 with 13 points and 12 rebounds. But he said the left knee was not a factor.

Jorge Garbajosa led the Raptors with 17 points, and Peterson scored 13 after sitting out about two weeks with a partially torn tendon in his left elbow. Fred Jones, Ford and Rasho Nesterovic added 12 points apiece. Nesterovic hit his first five shots but was 1-for-4 the rest of the way.

Rookie forward Andrea Bargnani, the top pick in the draft, was inactive for Toronto because of a sore back that has been bothering him the past few days.

"We are playing better," coach Sam Mitchell said. "We gave ourselves a chance. The next thing we have to do is find a way to finish it."

Unlike the previous three games, when they pulled away in the first half and won by an average of 21 points, the Bulls simply couldn't shake the Raptors.

Chicago was 6-of-19 and trailed 29-19 after the first quarter -- a sharp contrast from Wednesday's game against Philadelphia, when the Bulls were 13-of-17 and led by 23.

Nesterovic hit all five shots and had 10 points in the quarter, while Bosh scored seven and grabbed eight rebounds. The Raptors were 12-of-21 from the field.

"You need those games to remember that you have to play hard every night," Gordon said. "Hopefully, we will remember that tomorrow (against Minnesota)."

Game notes
The Bulls have not lost to the Raptors since Dec. 6, 2002, when they fell 103-89 in Toronto. ... Gordon was 4-of-14 from the field after scoring 31 against the 76ers. ... The Raptors hope to have Bargnani -- averaging 8.2 points and 2.7 rebounds -- Sunday, when they host Portland. Coach Sam Mitchell said the back started bothering him before Wednesday's 95-91 loss at Cleveland -- a game in which Bargnani scored 14.