The way a sport coat-clad Drew Gooden celebrated on the Air Canada Centre court Wednesday night, one might have guessed he contributed to the Bulls' 102-98 victory over the Raptors.
Even though Gooden sat with a strained left groin, that guess would be correct.
Gooden grabbed Joakim Noah as the Bulls exited a timeout with 12.7 seconds left and reiterated words coach Vinny Del Negro had just spoken: Don't bite on Chris Bosh's pump fake.
Noah, who started for the injured Gooden but played only 32 seconds in the fourth quarter, then executed to perfection. He stayed down on the first pump fake, then rose to block Bosh's jumper with 5.9 seconds left to preserve only the Bulls' fifth road victory in 20 tries.
The defensive play placed an exclamation point on a solid effort at both ends, with Kirk Hinrich and Luol Deng setting an energetic tone in their second game back from their respective injuries.
Hinrich had 12 points and six assists in nearly 33 minutes. Deng posted his second double-double with 16 points and 14 rebounds in 39 minutes.
"It was clear watching from the bench [while injured that] we lacked energy," Deng said. "I think Kirk and I have brought energy. Defensively, we're not there yet but the awareness is better. And we moved the ball."
Indeed, the Bulls assisted on a season-high 33 of 40 field goals.
Oh, and that Derrick Rose guy aided a bit in the triumph as well. Deferring early, Rose had eight of his 10 assists through three quarters, then took over offensively in the fourth with 17 of his 25 points.
Del Negro used a lineup of Rose, Ben Gordon, Hinrich, Deng and Andres Nocioni to spread the floor, letting Rose attack. His double-pump scoop with spin off the glass with 75 seconds left gave the Bulls a 100-96 lead—and could lead highlight shows.
"He was feeling it," Deng said. "Just give him the ball and get out the way."
Gordon gave the Bulls the lead for good with a three-pointer off a Hinrich feed with four minutes remaining. But Toronto, which received a career-high 31 points from Andrea Bargnani, hung around and had its chance to tie following an inexcusable turnover by Hinrich with 14.3 seconds left.
With the Bulls leading 100-98, Will Solomon suffered a mental lapse and fouled Rose with 14.4 seconds left. That reset the shot clock to 14, meaning all the Bulls had to do was inbound the ball. Instead, Hinrich, trying to hit Gordon, threw it away.
"He zigged instead of zagged," Hinrich said, trying to make light. "My mistake."
Noah, whose defense drew postgame raves from Bosh, bailed out the Bulls—with an assist coaches and Gooden.
"It feels great to be a part of it," Noah said.
Nocioni added eight of his 16 points in the fourth in one of those victories where everybody contributed.
"The main thing is the team's energy has picked up on both ends," Hinrich said. "We did a good job of sharing the ball and defensively we had some urgency."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun