TORONTO – Sore hamstring or not, Chicago Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau had no problem trusting Luol Deng with the biggest shot of the game.
Deng hit a tiebreaking jumper with 3 seconds left in overtime, and the Bulls beat Toronto 107-105 on Wednesday night, their eighth victory in nine meetings against the Raptors.
Carlos Boozer had a season-high 36 points and 12 rebounds, and Joakim Noah added 16 points and 14 rebounds for Chicago.
Deng, who played almost 48 minutes despite injuring his right hamstring in the first quarter, made the decisive shot on a pull-up jumper in the closing seconds of overtime.
To Thibodeau, Deng’s big basket was no surprise.
“The guys that have been around and seen him play a lot know that’s what he does – whatever you need,” Thibodeau said. “You need great defense, he does that. You need a rebound in traffic, he does that. You need a big shot, he does that. To me, that’s who he is. That’s what makes him such a good player.”
Thibodeau initially drew up a different play, but didn’t like the matchups when the teams took the court and called timeout again, changing the play to give Deng the shot.
That was fine for Deng, an 8-year veteran who said he’s learned how to stay calm and comfortable when the pressure mounts.
“I’ve been in the league for a while now,” he said. “I know what I can do and what I can’t do. When it comes to the last minutes of the game, I’m not as nervous or worried about what I’m going to do as I used to be. There’s a few things that I do well, and I’m going to stick to that.”
Deng scored 19 points and Richard Hamilton had 15 as Chicago won its fourth straight road game. The Bulls have won nine of their past 11 away from home.
Boozer’s double-double was his Eastern Conference leading 21st, and his 11th in 13 games against the Raptors.
“He can score a lot of different ways,” Thibodeau said. “Right now he’s in a really good rhythm. His teammates are really searching him out.”
Alan Anderson fouled out with 27 points, matching his career-high, and Kyle Lowry had 26 as Toronto lost its third straight.