Friday's game against Denver could have included another bittersweet reunion with Nate Robinson, the late-game hero of last year's overachieving Bulls season.
Robinson is out for the year, though, after suffering a torn ACL on Jan. 29. He did visit the United Center with the Nuggets during preseason.
With Derrick Rose injured and Robinson gone, fourth-quarter scoring has been a question for the Bulls all season. D.J. Augustin made another pitch to be the go-to guy during Wednesday's 94-92 win at Toronto. Augustin scored 13 of his 19 points in the fourth quarter.
On Thursday at the Berto Center, Augustin didn't bother lobbying for the job.
"It's just the flow of the game. Whatever's going on in the game, whoever has it going, that's who we're going to go to," he said. "Whatever plays Thibs runs, that's what we're going to do."
Overall this season, Augustin leads the Bulls in fourth-quarter scoring at 4.3 points per game, followed by Taj Gibson (3.8), Joakim Noah (3.6), Mike Dunleavy (3.1), Jimmy Butler (2.8) and Kirk Hinrich (2.5).
Among teams currently in playoff position, only Atlanta has a fourth-quarter scoring leader averaging fewer points -- Jeff Teague at 4.2. Kevin Durant leads the league in fourth-quarter scoring at 7.4 points per game.
Against Toronto, Augustin canned his third 3-pointer of the final quarter with 2:43 left to make it 89-82, then the Bulls managed just two more baskets the rest of the way, jumpers by Gibson and Hinrich.
Augustin came out of the game in favor of Dunleavy with 1:02 remaining, since coach Tom Thibodeau wanted to put Hinrich on Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry and there wasn't another small player on the floor.
Thibodeau expressed confidence in the Bulls' plan of late-game scoring by committee. The plan used to be simple: Get the ball to Rose and spot up for an open shot if he dishes off. Toronto tried that at the end of the game, a clear out for DeMar DeRozan while trailing 93-92, but his jumper was blocked by Butler.
"We've got a number of guys," Thibodeau said. "D.J. has been a big fourth-quarter scorer. Mike is a big shotmaker in the fourth quarter. Taj is a big shotmaker in the fourth quarter. Jo is a terrific playmaker. Carlos can score. We have enough. We have plenty."
Wednesday's game was a good example of how quickly things can change in the NBA. Early this season, most analysts saw the Raptors as a prime lottery candidate, hoping to draft Toronto-area native Andrew Wiggins. Then the Raptors released Augustin in December when they needed a roster spot for the players received from Sacramento in the Rudy Gay trade. Since then, Augustin has been invaluable for the Bulls while Toronto has risen to the No. 3 slot in the East, a half-game ahead of the Bulls.
"It was bittersweet," Augustin said of his first trip to Toronto since being released. "I was able to see a lot of the organizational people that I knew and a lot of my old teammates. At the same time, it felt even better getting a win. They were in third place and we want that spot, so it was a big win."
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