The Chicago Bulls, now ranked in 7th place, still two games under .500, have been embroiled in controversy and dysfunction this season. Rajon Rondo has been benched and publicly critical of both the coaching and the outspokenness of Wade and Butler. Butler and Wade, for their parts, have both called out the team and been punished for having done so. Trade rumors have swilred, their head coach has been widely criticized and their developing pieces like Mirotic and Bobby Portis have taken big steps back. They also came into this game on the heels of a 3-game losing streak. I bring all of this up to emphasis how big of a deal it is when a Chicago Bull was asked about the Raptors post-game and said, “man, they have some issues.” The Bulls are mired in a terrible relationship, but they went out on Valentine’s, and the Raptors were that couple they saw having an embarrassing fight in public to make them feel better by thinking, ‘well, at least we’re not as bad as them.’ They haven’t gone full Knicks yet, but something appears to be deeply wrong in Raptorland. Don’t let the final score of the game fool you, this was a badly played blowout.
The second quarter of last night’s game exemplified the need for Serge Ibaka that prompted yesterday’s trade. While pulling away to 19-point halftime lead, the Bulls had 5 dunks. Most of those came in semi-transition or early halfcourt sets where Poeltl simply lost track of Taj Gibson, Jonas was a few feet out of position and just watching and the rest of the team seemed disinterested in deterring anyone in a Bulls jersey from taking a free lane to the basket.
Bebe faired better defensively than Jonas or Poeltl, leading Casey to leave Jonas glued to the bench through the 4th quarter when the Raptors needed scoring. While he was better defensively, Bebe might have had his worst offensive game of the season last night. He routinely passed up easy shots to instead look for an often-difficult pass. It’s unclear if perhaps he was just trying to impress Rajon Rondo in doing so, but what is clear is that he had 4 turnovers in the process and left a handful of easy buckets on the floor by looking for anyone else to shoot the ball.
DeRozan had 18 points, but did not have a good game by any stretch of the imagination. He was ejected from the game with 25 seconds left after sounding off to the referee. His anger has been palpable on the court recently, and he has struggled to harness it into anything productive. When he’s not getting the foul calls that he expects, we’ve now seen two consecutive games where instead of locking down on defense, moving the ball in response or realizing that the refs aren’t calling it, his frustration results in him becoming obsessed with getting his own game through those attempts at fouls and bad pull-ups that weren’t working in the first place. Anger can be an effective tool on the basketball court (see: Westbrook, Russell), but only when you use it to fuel your effort and focus, not when it becomes pouting, a disinterested almost protest against defense and a selfish focus on proving something by taking over the offense (see: Cousins, DeMarcus). From a body language perspective, this game was about as bad as the Raptors have looked all season, and that starts with the team leaders in DeRozan and Lowry as well.
If you spent your Valentine’s alone, watching this game, then I am very sorry for you. Your night was sad and deeply unsatisfying. If you were annoyed to miss this game because of the societal pressures to buy some useless sentimental crap from Shoppers Drug Mart and then go out for an expensive dinner just because it’s February 14th and Hallmark is really good at marketing, well, rejoice! Because even if you forgot to try and make reservations until the afternoon of and your girlfriend or boyfriend seemed passive aggressively annoyed all night because of the long wait for a table at a second-tier restaurant because they’re not an idiot and know it’s because you completely forgot to make a reservation or, worse still, forgot about Valentine’s day altogether, at least you didn’t have to watch that embarrassing horror-show of a loss against the Bulls.