The Bulls came up just short of a signature win, falling 93-92 to the Toronto Raptors. Observations from another loss flush with silver linings, but a loss all the same:
Bricks were laid
Seriously. You could have built a house of ’em. Both of these groups were on the second night of back-to-backs tonight, and it showed.
At halftime, the two teams had combined to shoot 12-for-48 from 3-point range, a lot of which were, frankly, pretty open looks. Then, they missed their first eight combined attempts of the third quarter. The Bulls finished the night 12-for-46 from deep, the Raptors 7-for-29. Bleh.
The Bulls stayed in the game early — they led 51-49 at the half — by hunting good paint looks and getting to the foul line (and, of course, by way of Toronto’s poor shooting). They led the points-in-the-paint battle 16-8 at the end of the first quarter but tallied only 46 overall. Part of that had to do with the shooting picking up for a bit and another pesky bout of offensive stagnation.
The starters carried the offense for a while
At one point in the third quarter, Tomas Satoransky, Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen, and Wendell Carter had 54 of the Bulls’ 58 points. It was that type of game, at least for a while.
In the first half, Zach LaVine appeared to be on track for a bounce-back performance. He had 20 points, five rebounds, five assists and — crucially — no turnovers at the break. He didn’t score again.
Satoransky ran out to eight points and seven assists, and Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter combined for 19 points on 8-for-13 shooting in the first two periods.
The bench was a non-factor until the third quarter. After closing the entire fourth quarter and overtime against Miami, Coby White shot 0-for-7 and had three turnovers, though he also logged five assists and eight rebounds. He didn’t play down the stretch.
The bench came alive
The bench came alive for a spurt in the third quarter, behind four quick points from Daniel Gafford and 3-pointers from Thad Young and Denzel Valentine (and Kris Dunn, but he’s technically a starter). That carried over into the fourth quarter when the Bulls jumped out to a 14-6 run in the period’s first five-and-a-half minutes with a lineup of Satoransky, White, Valentine, Young, and Gafford on the floor.
Valentine, especially, was phenomenal — he finished the night with 13 points on 5-for-11 shooting. The United Center was legitimately loud a few times early in the fourth. Most of those instances involved him (or Gafford blocks).
Bulls faded down the stretch again
Boylen rode that aforementioned lineup until about midway through the fourth, when he started filtering the starters back in (first LaVine for Coby White, then Carter for Gafford). After Wendell Carter fouled out with 3:52 remaining, Satoransky, LaVine, Valentine, Markkanen and Gafford closed the game.
It wasn’t always pretty, and again, they came up just short. At one point, the Bulls didn’t score for five-and-a-half minutes, allowing an 85-77 lead to become an 86-85 deficit with just under three minutes remaining. A Valentine transition layup, Markkanen 3-pointer and Gafford layup reignited the crowd for a moment. But the game ended on a failed LaVine iso possession.
Another solid defensive performance
It’s hard to tell how much of the Raptors’ poor offensive night was a result of there being a lid on the basket versus the Bulls executing defensively. But Boylen and co. will take holding one of the league’s best offenses to 92 points and 37.8% shooting.
For the second night in a row, the Bulls also did a nice job corralling a premier offensive talent. Pascal Siakam started strong with 13 first-quarter points, then finished the game with 22 on 7-for-18 shooting (he was at 5-for-10 after the first).
Save for a few lapses in their transition defense, the Bulls played with tremendous intensity all night long. Fifteen forced turnovers is low for this steal-happy group, but many came at opportune times. Overall, a defensive performance worth building on.
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