TORONTO â€” A fist fight and a fierce fourth-quarter comeback.
Sparked by an all-out brawl between Serge Ibaka and Robin Lopez, and shouldering the frustration of 11 straight losses to Chicago, the Toronto Raptors finally beat the Bulls on Tuesday.
DeMar DeRozan poured in 42 points as the Raptors rallied from a 16-point deficit to beat Chicago 122-120 in a wild overtime game, ending a streak of futility that stretched back to Dec. 31 of 2013.
“Piece of cake,” said coach Dwane Casey, joking with reporters.
Cory Joseph added 19 points, while P.J. Tucker had eight points to go with 12 rebounds for the Raptors (42-29), who’ve won three in a row.
Jimmy Butler led the Bulls (33-38) with 37 points, while Rajon Rondo added 24.
Ibaka had 16 points before being ejected for exchanging punches with Lopez with about four minutes left in the third quarter â€” the pivotal moment, according to the Raptors.
The brouhaha began after Lopez swatted the ball away from the Raptors’ big man. The two had words. Lopez swung first. Ibaka hit back. Players on both teams tried to separate them. DeRozan was knocked over in the melee.
“It got us going,” DeRozan said. “Something like that happens, the crowd got into it, our fans love things like that especially with it being a hockey city.
“It sucks the little altercation, probably lose Serge for a couple of games. But that’s ’80s basketball I guess.”
Raptors assistant coach Jamaal Magloire and Nikola Mirotic received matching technicals in the scuffle. The penalty for a fighting technical is a fine up to US$50,000 and/or suspension.
“We were playing physical basketball and he got frustrated. . . he threw the punch and like a man I had to defend myself,” Ibaka said. “I’m not just going to be out there and watch him punch me. I had to defend myself.
“I just hope the league does a better job to watch because if it was me, we would not get to that point of punching. I know basketball is sometimes physical, we can talk trash, push each other, but punching like that, there’s no room because I want to play basketball, I don’t want to get suspended.”
The Raptors never led until overtime and trailed 94-79 heading into the fourth quarter.
Toronto, playing its 14th game without Kyle Lowry, finally pulled even during a thrilling stretch that started with some solid defence and a deft DeRozan steal off an unknowing Rondo, and included back-to-back three-pointers by Tucker.
Trailing by four points with a minute to play, DeRozan responded with a pair of baskets, and a Butler miss sent the game into overtime tied at 113-113.
A 16-foot turnaround jumper by DeRozan, who also had eight assists and seven boards on the night, and a putback by Patrick Patterson put the Raptors up by four with 45 seconds left in OT. With the crowd on its feet, Joseph drilled a jumper that all-but clinched the victory with 18 seconds left.
While he’s not keen to see Ibaka suspended, Casey said the scuffle served to wake up the Raptors.
“If something like that doesn’t get you going, and your competitive spirit going, I don’t know what will,” he said.
“Believe me, Serge Ibaka doesn’t have a malicious bone in his body, he’s a competitor, so is Lopez,” he added. “I don’t think either one of them will go down as Rocky.”
Tucker, who’s been a ball of energy on the defensive end since he was acquired at the trade deadline, pulled the team together after Ibaka’s ejection.
“We took Lopez out, which was huge, getting him out of the game,” Tucker said. “I told the guys ‘This could be the change. This could be it.’ We can go small ball. We can put out lineups that are better. And that proved to be the (case) with Fred (VanVleet) picking it up, Norm (Powell) picking it up, guys coming in and playing tough.”
The delirious capacity crowd of 19,800 fans at the Air Canada Centre included Kay MacBeth, the last surviving member of the Edmonton Grads, and Toronto FC midfielder Jonathan Osorio who, with a couple of teammates, fired tickets to TFC’s home opener up into the stands.
With 11 games left in the regular-season, the Raptors continue to fight for a favourable spot in the post-season. The win vaulted them to within half a game back of third-place Washington in the Eastern Conference.
The Bulls, who wore black armbands after the death earlier in the day of former longtime general manager Jerry Krause, raced out to an early nine-point lead and took a 31-27 advantage into the second quarter.
Chicago opened the second with an 18-6 run to go up by 16 points, but the Raptors hit back and a three by Joseph capped a 12-2 Toronto run that cut the Bulls’ lead to just six. DeRozan drilled a long three-pointer at the buzzer to cut Chicago’s lead to 59-54 at halftime.
DeRozan had 15 points in a third quarter that the Raptors pull to within four points, but the Bulls responded with an 18-6 run to go up by 16.
Lori Ewing, The Canadian Press