The Toronto Raptors fell to 0-3 at home on Monday night as DeMar DeRozan and the Chicago Bulls left Scotiabank Arena with a 111-108 win.
Although the result looked certain by the end of the third quarter, a late push by Toronto and OG Anunoby in particular, brought the game back into reach, before a missed Raptors shot at the buzzer sealed the win and a 4-0 record for the Bulls to start the season.
It was a back and forth affair early on as both defences got engaged quickly. As the game progressed into the second quarter though it was blown open with fast tempo possessions and transition opportunities, largely due to sloppy turnovers from the Raptors. Fred VanVleet in particular struggled to hold onto the basketball, and the giveaways led to a 10-point Bulls lead at the half. The third quarter provided more of the same in terms of high-flying offence, and the Bulls led by 12 going into the fourth frame, which seemed insurmountable the way things were playing out. Even four minutes into the fourth the Bulls led by 11, but a 9-0 Raptors run brought them right back into the contest with 4:49 to go. DeRozan answered back for Chicago, but the Raptors kept it close and only trailed 110-108 with 15 seconds left, and sent Nikola Vucevic to the line, who split his free throws. Down by three with one possession left, the Raptors got the matchup they wanted with a big switching onto VanVleet, but he was unable to create separation and was forced to take a tough step back three over Vucevic for the tie which missed, ending the game in heartbreaking fashion for Toronto.
Anunoby has turned things around after a tough start and remained hot on Monday night, leading the team with 22 points, 8 rebounds and 5 assists. Fred VanVleet recorded a career high in assists in the loss with 17, adding 15 points for the double-double. Gary Trent Jr. shot well from the field in the game, scoring 18 points on 7/15 shooting and 4/9 from three, also grabbing 5 rebounds. The bench play improved from the Mavericks loss on Saturday, scoring 29 points and playing well enough to keep the team in the game.
DeRozan had a game-high 26 points in his latest return to Toronto, going 10/10 from the free throw line while adding 4 rebounds and 6 assists. Zach LaVine pitched in with a solid performance in the win, finishing with 22 points, 4 rebounds and 5 assists. Besides their key scorers, Vucevic had a solid outing with 17 points and 8 rebounds, while Lonzo Ball contributed with 15 points, 3 rebounds and 5 assists. The Bulls bench hung steady with Toronto’s, scoring 27 points, including an efficient 11 from Troy Brown Jr.
As mentioned previously, turnovers were the story for Toronto on the evening, especially for VanVleet and Scottie Barnes. The team committed 19 total turnovers, and 14 of those were from the two aforementioned starters. VanVleet in particular seemed to be forcing the issue, but the 17 assists show just how often the ball was in his hands. For Barnes, the mistakes were something that can be expected for a rookie, and do not take away from his amazing start to the season through four games.
With the early struggles in their half-court offence, you have to wonder why Malachi Flynn has not yet been given a chance by Nick Nurse, and would have to expect that he will make his way into the rotation sooner rather than later.
It was mostly a quiet night for the Raptors Canadian contingent, as Chris Boucher’s role grew into a bigger question with only 5 minutes of action. Dalano Banton only played five minutes as well, hitting 2 free throws in his limited stint. Khem Birch had one of his better performances of the season in 19 minutes, scoring 11 points on 5/7 shooting.
Even in the loss, the Raptors showed great fight in a game where they could have easily checked out mentally. They gave themselves a real chance to win the game, but fell short when they needed a basket the most, which unfortunately has been a theme dating back to last season. The campaign is young, but a 1-3 start including 0-3 at home is less than ideal, and they will have to figure some things out on both sides of the ball moving forward if they hope to remain competitive.
The Raptors will try to fix their home game woes on Wednesday as the Indiana Pacers come to town, while the Bulls will be off until Thursday when they welcome the Knicks to the United Center in the search of a 5-0 start. The Bulls 4-0 start is their first with four straight to begin a campaign since the 1996-97 season.
Anunoby – 22 PTS 8 REB 5 AST
VanVleet – 15 PTS 6 REB 17 AST
Achiuwa – 11 PTS 11 REB 2 AST
DeRozan – 26 PTS 4 REB 6 AST
LaVine – 22 PTS 4 REB 5 AST
Vucevic – 17 PTS 8 REB 2 AST