The Chicago Bulls hosted the Toronto Raptors Wednesday night fresh off a too-close-for-comfort win over the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Bulls entered the contest just 0.5 games out of first place in the Eastern Conference. Meanwhile, the Raptors came into the game as the eighth seed in the East.
The Bulls, led by DeMar DeRozan in scoring with 29, had several nice runs over the course of the game. Ultimately, the Bulls saved a night from disaster, pulling out a 111-105 win for their 30th win of the season.
The Set Up
"Six to eight weeks" is a phrase that will currently cause some type of anxiety in Bulls fans. Lonzo Ball was lost for six to eight weeks due to a meniscus tear, Alex Caruso got knocked out for six to eight weeks with a wrist fracture, and Derrick Jones Jr. just received the same timeline after fracturing his finger.
Over the course of the entire 2021-22 season, it has seemingly been an uphill battle for Chicago in the injury department. But on the bright side, the Bulls just got Zach LaVine and Javonte Green back in the mix. Beyond that, Ayo Dosunmu has been a continuous bright spot as a rookie, stepping up the help his team weather all of the injuries. DeRozan has continued to have an MVP-caliber season, too, so the Bulls remain in contention for the top spot in the East.
In the first half, it seemed like this was going to be a game in which the Bulls could coast smoothly to the finish line. DeRozan, LaVine, and Nikola Vucevic all had it going and were collectively stuffing the stat sheet in regards to points, rebounds, and assists. There was an energy with which the Bulls came out that showed they didn't want this game to be a repeat of the Thunder game.
The ball movement in the first half was beautiful. As a team, the Bulls had 22 assists in the first two quarters. They went on run after run to go into halftime with a commanding 67-50 lead. It was beautiful basketball and everyone was getting into the action. DeRozan hit 21 points by the half, LaVine was at 14, seven boards, and six assists, and Vucevic had a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds.
The second half started similar to the first, but a shift occurred rather quickly. The Raptors played a big, long lineup, and they gave Chicago fits defensively. For reference, the Bulls scored 31 in the first, 36 in the second, and then 24 in the third and just 20 in the fourth. The common trend from Bulls games thus far -- panicking and falling apart when they are pressured -- certainly continued. It's not that the Bulls had a huge number of turnovers (13), but turnovers, stagnant offense, and poor shots defined Chicago's second half.
Honestly, if the Bulls didn't have Javonte Green (12 points, six boards, infinite energy), this game easily could have slipped away. When he was on the floor during the second half, Green was doing a lot of this:
Even with Green's energy, the Raptors closed the scoring gap quickly. Gary Trent Jr. hit clutch bucket after clutch bucket. He finished with 32, hitting 6/10 from three. OG Anunoby had an efficient 23. Add in the incredible defensive effort from the Raptors across the board, and Toronto actually took the lead late in the fourth. Ultimately, Vucevic was the one who came up clutch as the game clock ticked away. The big man hit a three to ice the game. Final: Bulls 111, Raptors 105.
Big Three Stats
For the game, DeRozan, LaVine, and Vucevic all had great nights. They posted the stat lines you envisioned when they were brought together.
- DeRozan: 29 points, 7 rebounds, 7 assists, 57.9% shooting
- LaVine: 23 points, 8 rebounds, 8 assists, 56.3% shooting
- Vucevic: 17 points, 15 rebounds, 8 assists, 72.7% shooting
Obviously, hypotheticals don't really mean anything. However, the above stats represent three players all just a few plays away from posting triple-doubles on the same night. Ideally, this type of play will translate to easier wins, but it was still nice to see the trio click so much on the same night. That's a dangerous combination regardless of who is around them.
What's On Tap Next?
Chicago will travel to San Antonio for a Friday night matchup against DeRozan's other former team -- the 18-30 Spurs. They'll take the court at 7:30 PM CT as the Bulls seek to walk away with a victory that isn't a nail-biter. Until then, please just keep LaVine and DeRozan healthy, basketball gods.
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