A ball of adrenaline and confidence named Doug McDermott blazed to the corner, clapping for Cristiano Felecio to locate him as he looked to capitalize off precious momentum he created.
Once he was spotted, the ball went up as quickly as he caught it.
Catch, flick, splash.
He repeated that motion a few other times—well, several others, as the Bulls played with a renewed confidence for the better part of three quarters, breaking all types of losing streaks and preventing the Bulls from falling to .500 with an improbable 116-106 win over the Toronto Raptors.
The Bulls previously lost their last five at home and their last five games overall, last winning in Sacramento before the All-Star break.
McDermott, set the crowd afire with a backdoor two-handed dunk that seemed to catch Raptors big man Patrick Patterson off-guard. Then after a turnover he set his feet for one of his four triples and a career-high 30 points.
“He was hunting shots, great cuts slashing to the basket,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “He’s such a good shooter, I know his teammates trust him. He did a little bit of everything, that dunk he had on the baseline was huge.”
McDermott put up 14 of those in the fourth to help keep the Raptors at bay, with two triples and hitting six of eight shots. A short but pointed talk from Fred Hoiberg after the walkthrough gave McDermott the boost he needed to author the career night.
"Tonight was a good night. We got the first one in, kind of got my energy going on defense," McDermott said. "This is something that can propel me the rest of the season. It felt good."
It was a stark contrast from the guy who looked like he barely belonged on the floor 24 hours previously in Cleveland, and Hoiberg could sense the team’s best shooter was down.
“He could relate to me in some ways, because similar games,” McDermott said. “We’ll have to check if he had a 30-point game. He just gave me confidence tonight.”
Hoiberg said when McDermott is a genuine threat, it makes life easier for Derrick Rose and when he returns, Jimmy Butler.
Rose kept the Bulls in the game early, finding teammates for jumpers and going head up with All-Star Kyle Lowry.
Rose took a beating on both ends but after scoring or assisting on the Bulls’ final three baskets, finished with 26 points and six assists on 12 of 20 shooting. Pau Gasol came an assist short of a triple double, with 18 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists in 33 minutes.
“Really good patience, he didn’t force the issue,” said Hoiberg of Rose. “He’s playing good. We’re happy with how he’s playing right now. We really needed it, I guess that’s an understatement.”
The Raptors have taken the Bulls’ place as the next best team not named the Cleveland Cavaliers, and showed why at the start and finish, taking a 13-point early and sapping the life out of the building.
The smell of desperation and panic was all throughout the United Center, as the Bulls’ history of submitting under the first sign of pressure didn’t leave many in a confident frame of mind.
But the Bulls showed some resiliency, as Hoiberg turned to seldom-used Cristiano Felecio in the first half as he searched for energy and Felecio delivered, with good hands and better finishes at the rim, making all three of his field goals to score eight with three rebounds in 14 minutes.
Bobby Portis fired up his team and the crowd late in the first half when the Bulls were behind by double figures, hitting a baseline jumper, a corner triple and getting a breakaway dunk to end the half trailing by just seven.
“Cris was huge. Taj has been playing a lot of minutes, we kept him under 25,” “We’ve been trying to find time for Cris in there. He didn’t go out there and play intimidated. He and Bobby, I thought our young guys were terrific tonight.”
In the past it would’ve been fool’s gold, but the Bulls found some of their own, with Rose scoring 10 of the 37 points as they finally found a crack in the Raptors defense and exploited it.
But it was their energy that kept them alive until Hoiberg’s offense could finally make a mark for the first time in ages. Lowry scored 27 with eight assists in 37 minutes while E’Twaun Moore held Raptors All-Star DeMar DeRozan to just 6 of 21 shooting, although he finished with 22 points.
All other shot makers were held in check as the defense allowed just 43 percent shooting.
But for the first time in quite awhile, the sinking ship that had been taking on water finally threw some overboard, as McDermott rediscovered what he does best---and allowed his coach to breathe for one night.