Yeah, a seven-point loss to the best team in the Eastern Conference. You surprised? Wait until I tell you the Raptors were without two starters. No Jose Calderon (who remained in Toronto getting treatment/rest on his strained hamstring) and no Andrea Bargnani (who missed the game with a sore ankle), and the team forced the Bulls to play Derrick Rose 42 minutes on a back-to-back and pushed them to the brink.

Not bad at all.

I tweeted what was probably my most negative tweet of the year toward any player on the Raptors roster, and I meant it. It’s not a slight to Bargnani’s talent, because let’s be clear on this, he’s an exceptionally skilled offensive player, but I might just enjoy watching the Raptors more without him on the floor.

I enjoy the young guys that the team has assembled together. I appreciate their fight, effort and hustle. Tonight, each of those things were on display.

With Calderon out, Jerryd Bayless slid into the starting lineup and he was fantastic. Playing against Derrick Rose, Bayless finished with 26 points on 9-for-14 field goals to go along with four rebounds, eight assists and a steal. Bayless played over 38 minutes and didn’t turn the ball over. He was pretty solid. Besides the whole allowing Derrick Rose to be Derrick Rose thing where Rose finished with a game-high 36 points on 11-for-20 field goals to go with 10 assists.

Still, it was a strong showing from Bayless and it makes you wonder if they’ll rush Calderon back or use this time to let him heal and take a closer look at the talent they’ve got in Bayless. I’d like to see if Bayless can duplicate this performance again anytime soon.

DeMar DeRozan was another bright spot for Toronto. DeRozan attacked, attacked, attacked and also finished with 26 points. He shot 10-for-21 from the floor and 6-for-7 from the line. He also finished the game without a turnover. As a team, the Raptors turned the ball over just eight times. Not bad against a defence like Chicago’s. What’s equally impressive is that the Raptors shot better than 50 percent for the game, making 41 of their 81 field goal attempts.

While the Raps kept it close down the stretch, in the end the better team pulled out the win. A late Chicago offensive rebound led to a corner three from Kyle Korver and then on the Bulls’ next possession, Korver drilled another jumper and the Bulls walked off of their home floor victorious.

Despite the Bulls not having Joakim Noah available, they still outrebounded the Raptors 43-33 and what seemed even more strange was Reggie Evans grabbing just three rebounds in his 19 minutes of play. Ed Davis was active on the glass, though, finishing strong with the 17-point, 11-rebound double-double. He also added three blocked shots.

In the end the Raptors lost a game that not many expected them to win. They lost it the best way you can lose a game, though, and that’s with respect. Such a nice change of pace from those awful blowout losses they had to shake off from their West Coast swing last week. Isn’t it nice to see effort for a full 48 minutes? Let’s hope they finish out the season with the same kind of effort.

Bulls player of the game: Derrick Rose: 36 pts, 11-for-20 fgs, 3 rebs, 10 asts, 1 stl, 3 blks

Raptors player of the game: Jerryd Bayless: 26 pts, 9-for-14 fgs, 4 rebs, 8 asts

Goat of the game: Sonny Weems: 0 pts, 0-for-5 fgs, 0 rebs, 1 ast

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