Well, that one was ugly. Coming off two straight wins, the Toronto Raptors entered today’s matchup versus the Chicago Bulls with the intent to make a statement and hang on to the third seed in the Eastern Conference. Unfortunately, the Raptors got their butts kicked, losing 108-92. Despite Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler being out of the lineup, the Bulls simply looked like the more focused team aware of the playoff implications. They were grinding things out on the defensive end, and they had a solid offensive gameplan. The Raptors on the other hand, weren’t able to string things together on boths sides of the floor at the same time. The result: another tick in the loss column, with 14 games remaining. The Atlantic Division title isn’t the main worry here, but the overall rhythm of the team and the potentially difficult matchup in the first round of postseason are some of the notable concerns down the stretch.
92 points may look pretty modest at first, but there were a couple good takeaways. Just a couple. DeMar DeRozan was solid without having to deal with the defensive pest that is Jimmy Butler. The Raptors swingman not only dropped an efficient 27 points on 8 for 14 shooting (with all three of his long range attempts going down), but got to the charity stripe 10 times, converting eight of his attempts. Patrick Patterson brought some much needed energy off the bench, stretching the floor and play with some intensity on his way to a 17 point night. That was just about it. Without Kyle Lowry on the floor, Toronto needed a stellar effort from more than two guys. Simply put, they didn’t get it. The team shot 38% from the field. Greivis Vasquez was only okay in stretches, Lou Williams‘ jumpers weren’t falling, and most importantly, Jonas Valanciunas was basically non-existent due to his lack of touches. He finished with five points, going 0 for 1 from the field and hitting 5 of his 6 free throws. Why didn’t he have more looks? Life’s mysteries, I suppose.
Led by Nikola Mirotic‘s 29 point outing, the Bulls coasted to their 108 point total courtesy of a good team effort. Unlike Toronto tonight, it seemed like everyone on the team was pitching in. Good shots were being given up for great ones, the passing was quite crisp, and the tempo was controlled in their favour. Terrence Ross was getting burned repeatedly by the likes of Mike Dunleavy Jr. and Tony Snell, and Joakim Noah messed around and came just two points shy of a triple double (8 points, 10 rebounds, 14 assists). Pau Gasol didn’t even have to play the starring role. The team as a whole was just taking advantage of a lackluster defensive effort on the part of Toronto pretty much all night.
The rebounding category gets another poor grade simply because of Chicago’s dominance on the glass in this matchup. The Bulls outrebounded the Raptors 47-36. Although Chicago’s advantage on the offensive glass was only 13-12, they finished their second chances, and this contributed to them winning the points in the paint battle 54-26. DeMar DeRozan led the Raps with seven boards, while Mirotic led the way for Chicago with 11 rebounds of his own. With just six boards, JV was pretty quiet on the glass in this one, supporting the theory of his game being somewhat disengaged when he isn’t getting the touches he needs.
Game Ball – Nikola Mirotic
Mirotic has been playing some good ball as of late. Even with the injury problems, the Bulls have snagged the #3 seed in the East. Mirotic’s recent performances couldn’t have come at a better time. The Raptors are still struggling to find that late-season rhythm.