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Bulls’ Bench Mob too much for Raptors

Ronnie Brewer (12 points 6-for-11 shooting) leaves James Johnshis wake Wednesday as Bulls defehost Raptors. | Pawel Dwulit~AP

Ronnie Brewer (12 points on 6-for-11 shooting) leaves James Johnson in his wake Wednesday as the Bulls defeat the host Raptors. | Pawel Dwulit~AP

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Updated: April 23, 2012 11:49AM

TORONTO — The energy the Bulls are known for and displayed in Monday night’s historic beatdown of the Magic didn’t immediately arrive with the team on the second leg of their journey. It must have gotten confiscated at customs or delayed at the border because it was nowhere to be found for the first three quarters.

The Bulls did something they have rarely done since Tom Thibodeau arrived before last ­season. They played down to their competition before the Bench Mob rode to the rescue and salvaged a 94-82 victory at the lifeless Air Canada Centre on Wednesday night.

The Bulls’ bench outscored the Raptors’ reserves 28-3 in the fourth quarter.

“You have to win games ­different ways,” coach Tom Thibodeau said. “If you’re going to be a good team, that’s what you have to do, so whatever the circumstances are, you have to do whatever is necessary to get it done and I think we’re growing in that area.”

Even great teams have lousy games. It’s OK to be satisfied swapping baskets as long as inferior teams are left in the dust in the fourth quarter. The Jordan-era Bulls were famous for that. These Bulls are figuring it out, too. They started flat and stayed flat in the first half. The starters picked it up in the third and the bench blew it open in the fourth.

“It was just bringing energy to the court,” John Lucas III said. “Our starters came in in the third and played hard. When you see that you come out and try to match their intensity. A lot of our shots were falling. I got it going, Kyle [Korver] got it going. Luol [Deng] kept it up the whole night and Taj [Gibson] and Omer [Asik] played big with defensive stops and ­rebounding.”

The Raptors led by seven after three quarters before Lucas started bringing the Bulls back. He scored seven consecutive points before Korver knotted the score with 7:27 left.

Then the Bulls finally started doing what they do best: Get defensive stops. Asik blocked a shot resulting in a Deng-to-Gibson alley-oop dunk. Lucas nailed a pull-up jumper and the run was on.

The Bulls held Toronto to two points for a seven-minute stretch of the fourth and outscored them 25-5 during one stretch.

“Find a way.” That’s what the injured Derrick Rose repeated to every team as they came off the floor after timeout with 5:23 left. By that time, they were well on their way.

“We just felt the momentum was going our way,” Deng said. “We could see them getting a little frustrated and we had a nice run. Once we got the momentum going we just stuck with it.”

Deng scored 15 of his 17 points in the first half. He also had 10 rebounds. C.J. Watson had 15 points while Lucas added 13 and Ronnie Brewer 12 and six rebounds.

DeMar DeRozan had a game-high 23 points for the Raptors and James Johnson added 16.

“We all have different strengths,” Korver said. “We try to play to our strengths.

“In the fourth quarter tonight was about as well as you can do playing to our strengths. We got on a little roll. We needed it tonight. We didn’t have a very strong game.”

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