I’m going to do something a bit different here to mix things up. In a nod to Rob Mahoney at The Two Man Game, here are 12 bullets, reflecting each point in the final margin.
- The uniforms. Dear lord, the uniforms. You’re aware that it was Canadian Forces Night and the Raptors wore the ugliest unis you’ve ever seen. Toronto snatching defeat from the jaws of victory could very well have been punishment from the Basketball Gods for putting these things on. Also, the fact the Raps are wearing camo whilst tanking is never going to stop being funny to me.
- DeMar DeRozan started strong. He had 11 points on 5-for-9 shooting in the first quarter, but one of those misses was a deep, contested three at the buzzer. The Bulls were a step slow chasing him around screens, so he got a few open looks. That opened the game up for him — DeRozan picked his spots to drive against a rather listless first half Chicago defense and hit a few more difficult jumpers, too. As Andrea Bargnani continued to struggle offensively, DeRozan was the Raptors’ No. 1 option. He finished with 23 points, but couldn’t keep up his early efficiency, shooting 11-for-25 on the night. Fun fact via Kyle Soppe at Hickory High: Toronto is winless in games where DeRozan shoots 20+ times.
- I mentioned Bargnani struggling on offense — Dwane Casey keeps referring to him needing to find his sea legs and I hope he finds them soon. Eight points on 2-for-10 shooting, 0-for-3 from behind the arc, and an overall lack of rhythm in this one. It was always going to be tough going up against Joakim Noah, but he was pretty much invisible here. Bad sign with five and a half minutes left in the first: Raptors are in transition, DeRozan passes to Bargnani trailing. He could pop a straightaway three or swing it to Calderon open on the right wing. Instead, he drives, which is actually fine because the Bulls’ defense is completely out of position. But he loses the ball, C.J. Watson heads the other way and gets a layup and Dwane Casey calls a timeout. Also, in the third quarter, there was this:
- I enjoyed Jerryd Bayless’ bright green shoes, but did not enjoy watching him have difficulty moving from side to side in his 1:29 of playing time in the first quarter. Good thing they pulled him; he clearly needs a bit more time after that hip pointer. It’s just crappy timing, though — he was playing so well, and Jose Calderon shouldn’t be playing 40 minutes on the second night of a back-to-back coming off an injury.
- As a result of the Bayless injury, we had quite the point guard matchup early in the second quarter: the 6’7 Gary Forbes vs. the 5’11 John Lucas III. It’s funny how rarely you see guys like Lucas, J.J. Barea, or Isaiah Thomas get exploited on defense in these situations. You figure NBA teams would post these guys up and make their coaches sit them, but more often than not the help defense is adequate and the other team ends up getting away from its game plan.
- Count the number of Toronto mistakes on this play:
- Look how happy James Johnson made Aaron Gray!
- It looked like the Raptors had this. They had a seven point lead heading into the fourth quarter. They had some defensive breakdowns in the third, but the Bulls were shooting 42 percent and looked tired, with their starters playing heavy minutes. This all changed extremely quickly in the fourth, as the Lucas/Kyle Korver/Luol Deng/Taj Gibson/Omer Asik unit completely turned the game around with a 20-0 run. Yup, 20-0. The Raptors went seven and a half minutes between field goals. Lucas and Korver did most of the damage, with 13 and 10 points in the quarter, respectively. Everything looked incredibly easy for the Bulls, while the Raptors struggled to even get clean looks. Toronto shot just 4-for-18 and was outscored 32-13 in the final frame.
- Lucas is so fun to watch. You saw him against the Heat, right? I love how much confidence Thibodeau has in him. He’s allowed to essentially step into the Derrick Rose role when he’s out there. Obviously, he’s not Rose, but with his aggressiveness and his body language it’s clear he’s always going to play as if he’s the best player on the court.
- DeRozan picked up a technical foul with four and a half minutes left, down by nine. He drove at Deng and missed a layup, not getting a foul call. Instead of hustling back on D, he screamed at the official nearest to him. Total frustration. In all honesty, I don’t think Deng fouled him. But DeRozan kept that scowl on for the rest of the game and it didn’t particularly help him. Felt bad for him — he was trying, but his team could not get a damn thing going down the stretch.
- I also felt bad for him because he was matched up with Deng in the fourth and Deng smothered him. Really impressive performance for Deng, who played 43 minutes and the entire second half. Playing through a wrist injury, he shot just 5-for-16 but he led the Bulls in scoring with 17.
- One guy who could have helped offensively: Linas Kleiza. Just five points on 2-of-9 shooting. He played the whole fourth quarter, but missed all four of his shots down the stretch. One was blocked by Asik and turned into a Deng-Gibson alley-oop, which gave Chicago its first lead since the second quarter. I’m not sure I’ll ever understand what makes Kleiza so streaky, but he’s now shooting 10-35 in his last five games. He’ll turn that around.
Check back later today for a draft post.