The Toronto Raptors squandered late chances on Thursday night in Chicago, eventually falling to the Bulls 111-105.
The loss on the second night of a back-to-back evens the Raptors out at 23-23, and moves them to 10-11 on the road.
The Bulls are a tough opponent even without injured Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso, and an inactive Fred VanVleet wouldn’t make things any easier for the visiting Raptors.
The first half (especially the second quarter) was almost entirely in the Bulls favour. They were making difficult shots and catching the Raptors defence out of position, while at the other end of the floor the Raptors struggled to get quality looks against one of the best teams in the league, and it led to a 17-point deficit at the break. The Raptors started to chip away with 16 points from Gary Trent Jr. in the third alone, bringing the Bulls lead down to 5. A few clutch baskets from OG Anunoby brought Toronto all the way back, giving them a 1-point lead with 3 minutes to go. Unfortunately, from there it became a bit of a comedy of errors for the Raptors. Trent Jr. was ejected for his second technical foul, the Raptors started to falter at the free throw line, and at the end of the game with a chance to tie the score they resulted to a prayer heave from Pascal Siakam over a good look. As a result, the Bulls were able to survive on their home floor and walk away with the narrow 111-105 win.
Trent Jr. was easily the best player on the floor for the Raptors prior to his ejection, getting 32 points on 11/22 from the floor. Anunoby finished with 23 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists, while Scottie Barnes had an efficient night with 16 points, 5 boards and 7 assists. Siakam struggled from the field in the loss going a lowly 3/12, and it was another rough night for the Raptors bench who combined for only 19 points.
Raptors great DeMar DeRozan was the main offensive catalyst for the Bulls, scoring 29 points alongside 7 rebounds and 7 assists. Zach LaVine had a good night, recording a 23-8-8 statline in 38 minutes of work, while big man Nikola Vucevic feasted on the glass, finishing with a 17-point, 15-rebound double-double that included a clutch three late. Coby White was solid off the bench with 9 points, but it was otherwise a quiet night for the Bulls reserves.
It would be expected for legs to tire on the second night of a back-to-back, but it was mostly mental mistakes that cost the Raptors down the stretch. The difference between a contending team like the Bulls and a re-tooling team like the Raps was evident, and proved that the Raptors have a long way to go before rejoining the elite teams at the top of the conference, both in terms of preparation and personnel.
At an even .500 through 46 games, the Raptors are about where people expected if not slightly above. They’ve played a lot of tough teams as of late, and with the injury issues early in the year they’re in a decent position. They currently sit in 9th in the East, and will control their own destiny for the remainder of the year when it comes to qualifying for the play-in tournament.
The Raptors will have a few days off to recover before travelling to Miami to take on Kyle Lowry(Lowry has missed his past five games for the Heat due to a personal issues) and the Heat on Saturday, while the Bulls will be back in action on Friday in San Antonio against the Spurs.
Trent Jr. – 32 PTS 1 REB 2 AST
Anunoby – 23 PTS 5 REB 4 AST
Barnes – 16 PTS 5 REB 7 AST
DeRozan – 29 PTS 7 REB 7 AST
LaVine – 23 PTS 8 REB 8 AST
Vucevic – 17 PTS 15 REB 8 AST