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.
The Bulls won 10 straight against the Toronto Raptors coming into tonight. Having lost three straight, including blowout losses to the Suns and Timberwolves to send them three games under 0.500, they desperately needed to make this their 11th straight win against the Raps, especially since this was their first home game after a six-game road stint. Given the Bulls’ habit of losing to sub-0.500 teams and showing up to play against stronger competition, maybe we could have predicted this. Other than a sustained second half run made by the Raptors, the Bulls led this one by 15 to 20 points for most of the game and avoided losing their fourth straight, topping the Raps 105-94 and moving to 27-29 on the season.
- With Dwyane Wade out (sprained wrist), the Bulls reserves had to step up. They helped them take a 24-18 lead to the end the first period, including some good defense by Cristiano Felicio, and a corner three from Bobby Portis (What’s that? Some first quarter action for BP?). His time was short-lived, however, as he only ended with 10 minutes. That said, in his short time, he had six points and three rebounds with a +7 to show for his time on the court. Felicio had himself a nice game as well, and was crucial in the win. He was in the right place at the right time on defense (a testament to his own work ethic), and was a presence on the offensive side. He got 26 minutes and a +12, including 10 points on 4-6 shooting and six rebounds with two steals.
- Jimmy Butler was finally a presence on defense. Seems like he’s been absent of late, but maybe that’s just perception. He was all over the hardwood tonight, disrupting the Raptor’s game plan by closing passing lanes and securing four steals. He did have four turnovers himself, but he more than made up for it on the other end with 12 assists. That’s an unusually high number for Jimmy, but it seemed his shot wasn’t working and he made the necessary adjustments. He didn’t make many baskets, but he didn’t shoot too many, either. JB was 2-10 from the field tonight, but managed to get to the line 19 times and connected on 15 of them, good for 19 total points in an expanded 37 minute role due to the injuries.
- Rajon Rondo had a small stretch were he played like a real leader and came alive in the second quarter with 10 points. He was working with the younger guys, and was decisive on offense, and even hit a couple threes. He cleaned it up a little for a while, not making any egregiously bad passes or decisions, but then had five turnovers when it was all said and done, and only four assists to offset them. He ended with 24 minutes, and those 10 points would be his only offense for the game.
- Doug McDermott was also big off the bench for the Bulls and came back from the dead with 20 points in 32 minutes on 61.5% shooting for a +13.
- I don’t know who these Bulls are, but they were running tonight. They had 20 fast break points, including a nice sequence of defense-turned-offense in the first half to extend their first half lead to 19. With their bench contributions totaling 54 points, the Bulls were able to expand the lead to 23 at its peak.
- The Raptors’ struggles continue against the Bulls. Their shooting woes from beyond the arc were part of the reason for their downfall tonight – just 5-20 from deep; they couldn’t hit their first three until the third quarter. It also didn’t help that they couldn’t get to the line as much as the Bulls. Just 24 attempts compared to the Bulls’ 35, resulting in a disparity from the charity stripe of 28-19. Coming off the bench, DeMar DeRozan seriously struggled. He connected on just five of his 19 shots – a big reason for many of the Raptors’ empty possessions.
- Up Next: It doesn’t get any easier for these Bulls, hosting the second place Boston Celtics on Thursday. The Raptors head home to play the Charlotte Hornets.
The Bulls continued their dominance over the Toronto Raptors Monday night. Playing without Mike Dunleavy, Derrick Rose and Pau Gasol, Chicago extended its winning streak against the Raps to nine games and are now gunning for the seven seed.
- Doug McDermott was shooting molten lava from his fingertips in the first half of this game. McDermott went into halftime with 24 points on 7/7 shooting, making all three of his triples and 7/8 of his free throws. This wasn’t the first time Doug has shredded the Raptors this year, but unlike the previous game, I don’t think Toronto’s defense was all that bad. McDermott connected on a few contested threes that were taken well beyond the arc and got several kind rolls on his patented flip shot off the dribble. McDermott finished the game with a team-high 29 points.
- Jimmy Butler made his second attempt at returning from last month’s knee injury. Butler did not have a great night shooting the ball, making just 5/18 of his field goals. While the percentage isn’t great, he shouldered the load for a team lacking options in the shot creation department.
- Butler didn’t have much touch on his shot, but his feel for the game was not an issue. Jimmy finished the game with six assists and zero turnovers in 34 minutes of play.
- 34 minutes sound familiar? The Bulls just refuse to learn from their mistakes with handling injuries. Fred Hoiberg seemed interested in limiting his shooting guard’s minutes in the first half, yanking him with five minutes left in the first and second quarters. But Fred ended up putting Butler back in to finish the first half, and rode him hard in the second, including all twelve minutes in the fourth quarter.
- The Bulls nearly collapsed in the last five minutes of this game as the team abandoned the offensive principles that had put them in a position to win. Butler, perhaps dealing with fatigue, grinded the offense to a halt down the stretch. I don’t have a problem with the Bulls trying to work the full 24 seconds of the shot clock when time is on their side. I do have a problem with the team walking up the ball not getting into any type of offense until half the shot clock has ticked away. Way too many unimaginative isolations led to the Bulls being outscored by six points in the final four minutes.
- Thankfully the Bulls had built up enough of a lead that their late game collapse was not big enough to sink them. E’Twaun Moore filled in admirably for Rose in the starting lineup, scoring 17 points on 8/11 shooting. Moore chipped in four assists, grabbed four rebounds and did his best to slow down All-Star Kyle Lowry. E’Twaun has an unorthodox shooting stroke, but he was letting it fly with confidence against Toronto. Moore scored on 5/7 shots taken outside the paint, benefiting from clean looks generated by smart passing and cutting.
- Nikola Mirotic chipped in 17 points of his own in his return to the starting lineup. Nikola made a few mental mistakes in the final minutes, turning the ball over once and then nearly turning it over a minute later, but for the majority of the game he was playing with the decisiveness that typically results in his success. Mirotic was 3/8 from three point range and provided valuable spacing for a team in severe need of it.
- McDermott had the big game, but it was Justin Holiday who got the start in place of Dunleavy. Holiday found himself in early foul trouble, but he finished 2/4 from the field and was a team high +13 in just 14 minutes.
- Taj Gibson finished with a double-double, scoring 13 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. Taj logged a crucial 34 minutes as the only credible deterrent at the rim to play Monday night.
- The Bulls got lucky when the Raptors lost Jonas Valanciunas to injury in the first quarter. The Lithuanian center was 3/3 before hurting something in his wrist and was going to be a huge issue for the undersized Bulls.
- I really like when the Raptors play Kyle Lowry, Cory Joseph and DeMar DeRozan together. Very few teams have a combination of size and skill to punish the Raptors when they trot out this trio. The Raptors are not flush with shooters, but having three players share the floor able to drive, dish or finish inside creates spacing for the offense in a nontraditional way.
- Coming up: the Bulls take on Washington tomorrow night.
After a low energy loss to Cleveland the night before, I had little faith the Bulls would be able to compete against an impressive Raptors team on the back end of a back-to-back. Somehow, the shorthanded Bulls found a way to win their eighth straight against the Raptors thanks to some huge contributions from unexpected sources.
- Doug McDermott was hot as lava all night en route to a career high 30 points. He was able to hurt the Raptors inside and outside with smart, versatile moves. McDermott finished 13/17 from the field and 4/5 from three point range in 30 minutes.
- McDermott found a rhythm early in this game. Sloppy defense from Terrence Ross freed Doug for a couple of wide open threes from the corner.
- Doug is shooting 47% from the corners this season. Leaving him out there alone is basically conceding a super layup. Terrance Ross is not well known for his attentive defense, but he was hardly the only Raptor guilty of this mistake.
- We’re accustomed to the marksmanship from McDermott. What was most impressive in this game was the 9/12 two point shooting. McDermott moved beautifully off the ball all night and finished through traffic in the paint.
- Joakim Noah was great at finding McDermott on cuts to the basket, just one of a thousand reasons the Bulls are missing Jo. Hopefully this game will spark more crafty cutting from McDermott, who is shooting 64% off cuts this season.
- In addition to canning open triples and backdooring guys for layups, Doug did this
AND ALSO HE DID THIS
- Derrick Rose played an excellent game as well. Rose finished with 26 points on 12/20 shooting. Rose’s most impressive basket came after he rebounded his own miss in the third quarter and went right back up for a layup. That quick second jump was great to see from the former MVP.
Introducing a new BULLet Point feature: The Bank Statement
- Rose missed his first two bank attempts, but finished the game 3/5 on shots off the glass.
- The Bulls got a huge lift from their backup big men in this game. Bobby Portis scored eight points and grabbed eight rebounds in 22 minutes off the bench. What doesn’t show up in the stat sheet is the confidence that Portis has switching onto guards in the pick and roll. Three times in this game Bobby found himself isolated against a ball handler, settled into his stance, and forced the guard to pass out of the mismatch.
- When Bobby runs in transition, good things happen.
- Critiano Felicio was +12 in his 14 minutes off the bench. Felicio, who had not played more than four minutes before Friday, was 3/3 from the field and drew fouls on two of his made baskets. Felicio was active all night crashing the offensive glass and brought energy and intensity to the game that was greatly needed by a shorthanded, tired team.
- Coming up: the Bulls host Kobe Bryant and the Lakers on Sunday for the Mamba’s last trip to the United Center (if he suits up).