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.