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.