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Bulls-Raptors Preview

Nov 11, 2009 - 7:19 AM By NICOLINO DIBENEDETTO STATS Writer

Chicago (4-3) at Toronto (3-4), 7:00 p.m. EDT

The Chicago Bulls thought they had won their fourth straight game, but upon further review the referees didn't agree. Playing seven of their next eight on the road to conclude November might make it tough to recover.

The Bulls open that daunting stretch Wednesday night when they visit the Toronto Raptors.

Chicago (4-3) saw its three-game winning streak come to an end in somewhat controversial fashion with Tuesday's 90-89 loss to Denver. Brad Miller took an inbounds pass with 0.3 seconds to play and appeared to hit a shot at the buzzer, clinching another victory for the Bulls. However, the officials took around 10 minutes to review the play before deeming Miller hadn't released the shot in time.

"I thought it was good when I first saw it," Chicago coach Vinny Del Negro said. "That is irrelevant. The refs have to make the call. My understanding - 0.3 is enough time to catch and shoot. But I guess the ball was on his fingertips, probably. The refs made the call after looking at it about 20 times."

The Bulls will have to put that disappointment behind them quickly, as they begin a rough stretch that includes seven road games between now and the end of the month.

After visiting Toronto (3-4), Chicago returns home to face Philadelphia on Saturday before playing six games in two weeks during its annual road trip caused by the circus at the United Center.

The Bulls have dropped two of three away from home this season after going 13-28 on the road in each of the previous two campaigns.

Injuries to forward Tyrus Thomas (broken arm) and centers Aaron Gray (broken leg) and Jerome James (Achilles' tendon) have left the Bulls with only five reserves, including 38-year-old Lindsey Hunter, who has played a total of seven minutes in one game.

The short-handed state of the team means more playing time for Joakim Noah, who had 12 points and a career-high 21 rebounds in a season-high 42:40 against the Nuggets.

The Bulls could also use another strong performance from Derrick Rose. The second-year guard had a season-high 22 points, shot 10 for 17 and dished out five assists Tuesday, giving him a averages of 13.7 points and 5.6 assists on the season - still below his marks of 16.8 points and 6.3 assists in 2008-09, en route to winning the NBA Rookie of the Year Award.

Rose averaged 20.0 points and 8.5 assists as Chicago dropped three of four meetings with the Raptors last season. The Bulls have also lost three of their last four trips to Toronto.

The Raptors return home for this contest before starting a four-game road trip Friday against the Los Angeles Clippers.

They concluded a 1-2 trip with a 131-124 loss at San Antonio on Monday, allowing a season high in points and allowing the Spurs to shoot 14 for 28 from 3-point range.

"We just have to do a better job of closing out guys," coach Jay Triano said. "I wasn't too concerned about the 3-point shots. Three-pointers happen because guys blow by. We have to man up and keep the guys in front of us. We are not doing that right now."

Toronto is allowing 111.4 points per game. Only Memphis (112.0) and Golden State (113.2) are allowing more. Offensively, the Raptors are among the highest scoring teams in the NBA, averaging 109.4 points.

Chris Bosh has been a big part of that success, ranking fifth in the NBA in scoring (29.0 ppg). He's tied with Utah's Carlos Boozer for fourth in rebounding (11.6).

The forward averaged 23.5 points and 11.3 boards in four games against the Bulls last season.