The Toronto Raptors fell short on Thursday night on the tail-end of a four-game home stretch in Tampa against the Chicago Bulls, 122–113. 

Nick Nurse could only count on eight active squad members against Chicago. Malachi Flynn earned his first career NBA start and had a strong outing with 9 points and 7 assists. With Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet out, he was the Raptors’ sole true playmaker available on Thursday. It seemed like as soon as he headed to the bench his absence was felt amongst his teammates as they lacked creativity. 

The Chicago Bulls came out hot from the start and ended the game at an astounding 54% efficiency from the field. They were up by as many as 20 in the first half and once more it felt like another game of playing catchup for Toronto. 

Bulls Head Coach Billy Donovan had seven players end in double digits against the Raptors, including 22 from both Nikola Vucevic and Zach Lavine and a strong 18-point performance off of the bench for Lauri Markkanen. 

The lone bright light for Toronto on Thursday evening was Canadian Chris Boucher. He had an absolutely stellar performance with 38 points and 19 rebounds (including 9 on the offensive end), both career-highs. Boucher finished with a team-high +16 when he was on the floor and did everything in his power to rally his team back into it. Boucher still remains the only player to be named NBA G League MVP & Defensive Player of the Year in the same season.

Pascal Siakam, who finished with 27 points despite the loss, along with the rest of his teammates, seem to simply run out of gas down the stretch night after night. It’s hard to blame them when they have had such a fast-paced campaign, away from their homes in Canada, and have had to deal with so many injuries or COVID related absences. It seems like the matchups where the entirety of the roster was fit and ready to play have come extremely few and far between. 

Some news to get Northside fans excited is the acquisition earlier on Thursday of two new players by their favourite franchise. Khem Birch, a Montreal native, is finalizing a buyout with the Orlando Magic and is expected to sign a contract shortly. On the other hand, coming from the G League’s Memphis Hustle, Freddie Gillespie has put pen to paper on a 10-day contract with Toronto. 

The Raptors face a tough back-to-back on the road this weekend when they play in Cleveland against the Cavs on Saturday before visiting The Garden and taking on the New York Knicks on Sunday, tip offs at 7:30 and 8:00 pm EST. respectively. 

They will certainly hope to have a flurry of players back and some much-needed energy providing returns to the lineup. Second nights of consecutive games have certainly been their Achilles heel this campaign, so let’s see if Toronto can turn that around on Sunday. 

Written by Thomas Debost

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