Raptors lose season series to Bulls, remain a game behind Cavs

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Tough ask on a back to back, but missed opportunity for the standings.

The Raptors fall in Chicago, losing the season series 3-1 to the Bulls on a night where they could have moved into a tie with Cleveland for sixth in the East. Toronto had good energy in the first half however playing seven games in 11 days finally seemed to get the best of the Raps. Chicago’s 15-0 third quarter run gave the Bulls a double digit lead and they never looked back. Some notes below.

First Half Pascal

The Pascal Siakam drives off high screens were working beautifully in the first two quarters. Normally after getting around a pick set near the three point line,  Nikola Vucevic was the next line of defence in the paint playing drop coverage. Pascal maneuvered around him numerous times, shooting 7-11 in the first half.

On Siakam’s prettiest basket of the night, Vooch was asked to cover Pascal one on one. It did not go well.

Second Half Adjustments

The Bulls stopped giving Pascal the straight line drive in the second half. They made it harder for Siakam to initiate the offence off the high screen and denied him getting the ball a few times. Fatigue was also an issue but Siakam only had three shot attempts after halftime, adding three turnovers. Alex Caruso was a pest defensively, something the Bulls have missed for chunks of the season. Patrick Williams also returned after only playing five games this season. When Lonzo Ball comes back, the Bulls will have another option to help on the perimeter. The potential is definitely there.

Toronto went 6:06 in the third quarter without a field goal.

Another reason Pascal didn’t have the space to operate is because the Raptors shot 6-32 from three on pretty good looks. Nick Nurse has acknowledged in the last couple of games that he’s not a big fan of starting both Precious Achiuwa and Khem Birch. However that lineup was out there again, which limits spacing. Birch had a good game overall and tried to stretch things out attempting a couple of corner threes but they didn’t fall. Achiuwa had a rare down night from three as of late, shooting 0-5. Fred VanVleet was the only starter to connect behind the arc at all and he went 3-12, saying afterwards that it’s the most wide open he’s been in a while. Gary Trent Jr’s shooting was missed, as the Raptors are now 2-8 this season without him.

Skip to the offensive side for Chicago. Zach LaVine is a microwave, and heated up in the third quarter with 16 of his 26 points to help blow the game open.

Mix in Vucevic, who also got going on the short roll, open threes and offensive boards.

“We just weren’t ourselves defensively at all tonight, we were out of schemes quickly and just not moving. We were kind of in, but we weren’t getting back out very much. Happened pretty fast there on a bunch of plays,” said Nurse after the game.

DeMar DeRozan

DeMar was cool as a cucumber in this game from an approach perspective. He ranks eighth in the league with 20 shot attempts per game, but only needed 14 in this one. Deebo shot 10-10 from two point range in this game, only missing on three of his four attempts outside of the arc.

Everyone knows where DeRozan wants to go. Stopping him is another issue with his arsenal of fakes, counters and beautiful footwork. Everything was just easy.

https://twitter.com/BullsNationCP/status/1506080019998654468

I’m going to take a wild guess that DeRozan is going to send some sort of “gotcha” text to VanVleet, if he hasn’t already.

Sidenotes: Fred’s knee

VanVleet moved well in the first quarter with some early baskets. However as the game progressed, it was clear to many that he’s still not right. It’s pretty likely he won’t be for the rest of the season.

Sidenotes: Scottie entry passes

Scottie Barnes gave Fred a breather at point guard. His ability to lob these feeds ever so slightly over the defense is mesmerizing.

Nurse said that Scottie wasn’t as aggressive as he would like him to be with only nine shot attempts, but Barnes did have five assists.

What’s Next?

There are only 10 games left. If the Raptors have any hope of getting past Cleveland and escaping the play-in, the next game vs the Cavs in Toronto is a must win.

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