In a game that had tons of presage hype, the actual contest itself didn’t fail to deliver, unfortunately it was the Toronto Raptors gobbling up the good side of the headlines after the Bulls lost to Toronto for the first time in 12 games 122-120 in OT. After the unfortunate passing of one of the great GMs in NBA history, Jerry Krause, mastermind behind the 90s Bulls dynasty all of yearn for, there was still an important game to be played.
Sitting a game and a half back of the 8th seeded Heat, the Bulls were playing in a tough arena against a good team, albeit one that the Bulls hadn’t lost to since New Year’s Eve 2013 in the Raptors. After 3 1/2 quarters, it appeared as if the Bulls would pick up a marquee road win and continue to terrorize the confused Raptors. But then, with 6:39 left in this one and the Bulls up a comfortable 15, DeMar DeRozan showed up and the Bulls forgot out to put the Ball through the cylinder.
The result, the Bulls shooting just 3/20 from the field over the next 11+ minutes of play including overtime, in a stretch that saw them score just six points over a full quarters worth of time. Give Toronto credit, they put the pressure on the Bulls with aggressive play and by hitting their shots to force the Bulls to tighten up.
The aftermath of this one is just as ugly as the game itself. The Bulls now sit in 10th place in the East, 2 games back of the Heat, with just 11 games remaining on their schedule. Robin Lopez will most likely be suspended due to a fight with Serge Ibaka we will take a look at later. And finally, adding injury to insult, Cristiano Felicio, the Bulls back-up to Lopez, went down hard on his tail-bone in the 4th and appeared to be in a considerable amount of pain so missed games for him are not out of the question. The Bulls will need a quick and decisive turnaround to put this game behind them if they want to sneak into the Eastern Conference playoffs.
- The reason the Bulls had such a large lead late was due in part to the incredible play of Rajon Rondo. The Kentucky product had an astounding first half scoring 19 points on 7/8 shooting including a shocking 3/4 from deep. Rondo also added five dimes and even got to the line in the first two frames. Frankly put, this was the best half of basketball Rondo played all year.
- Instead of creating spacing issues in this offense, Rondo was able to create space for those around him. Due to his prolific shooting effort, he was able to suck defenders into the lane with him as he either found a back door cutter or kicked it out for an open three. This is the man the Bulls front office was hoping for when they signed the veteran guard away from the Kings this past off-season.
- Unfortunately, all good things come to an end, and Rondo’s night was no different. He ended up shooting just 2/8 after the break and committed two vital turnovers to fuel the Raptors come back. Rondo’s rise and fall in this one embodies what this game, and season, have turned into for this once proud franchise.
- Jimmy Butler did everything he could to prevent a meltdown in this one. Butler ended the night with an impressive line of 37 points, 10 rebounds, and six assists to go with an impressive 12/14 from the charity stripe. 24 of those points came after the second quarter, as Butler seemed to be the only Bull attempting to close out this game with any sense of urgency. Unfortunately, as we all know, that was not enough as his tough jumper towards the end of regulation came up short forcing the Bulls into an overtime they would not prevail in.
- The Sportscenter highlight of the night came not from any basketball being played on the court, but rather, a scrap that broke out after a missed shot. Robin Lopez appeared to accidentally stumble into Serge Ibaka after the forward grabbed a rebound. Ibaka then appeared to give an elbow into RoLo’s back. The two proceeded to get up close and personal, both just missing each other in big swings at the others expense. The two players got ejected, and with Felicio’s injury less than a quarter later, the Bulls were left extremely thin in the front court.
- The Raptor’s star of the game as hands down DeMar DeRozan who finished with a line of 42 points, seven rebounds, and eight assists. While DeRozan attempted a staggering 38 shots, his playmaking in the fourth quarter is what lead to the Raptors to a 34-19 edge in the period to stretch this game into the extra frame. With fellow backcourt mate Kyle Lowry out an extended period of time, DeRozan has been forced to step up the workload and has done brilliantly to keep the Raptors n a top 4 position in the East.
- Up Next: the Bulls face what feels like a do or die game at home against the Pistons on Wednesday night.