It's almost like Billy Donovan called it.
"They're a really great offensive rebounding team," the Chicago Bulls' head coach said of the Toronto Raptors following Monday's practice at the Advocate Center. "They play in the paint. They have size, strength and physicality."
A reporter interjected: "And length."
"And length too," he said. "I forgot that."
It's not often an NBA team shoots 52.1 percent, holds its opponent to 40.4 percent shooting and loses by six points. But that's what the Bulls did in a 104-98 loss in Toronto, which snapped their modest two-game win streak.
More deflatingly for the Bulls, the loss allowed the Raptors to win the season series 2-1. That gives Toronto the tiebreaker should the Bulls need it in their chase for a play-in spot.
The loss dropped the Bulls 2-1/2 games behind the ninth-place Raptors and back to 1-1/2 games behind the 10th-place Washington Wizards, who spoiled Quin Snyder's coaching debut in Atlanta. The Bulls, who finish this back-to-back set of games on Wednesday in Detroit, have 20 games left.
Donovan switched the lineup coming out of the All-Star break, during which the Bulls signed veteran guard Patrick Beverley off the buyout market. Beverley replaced Ayo Dosunmu at point guard, but, in a minor surprise, Donovan also inserted Alex Caruso at power forward over Patrick Williams.
The Bulls won the first two games and allowed the small Brooklyn Nets' starting lineup just five offensive rebounds and six second-chance points. But even in their Sunday matinee victory over the Wizards, some slippage in that department started to show. The Wizards scored 22 second-chance points off 12 offensive rebounds.
On Tuesday, the Raptors "only" scored 15 second-chance points. But they grabbed 19 offensive rebounds and, coupled with the Bulls' 20 turnovers, attempted a staggering 23 more field goals than the Bulls' 71 attempts. The Raptors scored 21 points off those turnovers, giving them a combined 36 points off Bulls' miscues.
Donovan told reporters in Toronto afterward that he didn't think the Raptors' size overwhelmed the Bulls on every offensive rebound, pointing to scrambles for loose balls won by the Raptors or some missed rotational boxouts by the Bulls. So it's certainly possible that Donovan keeps the same starters on Wednesday in Detroit.
Caruso talked about trying to "hit first" when trying to box out bigger players as a guard starting at power forward. The Bulls do feature strong rebounding guards in Caruso, Patrick Beverley, Ayo Dosunmu, Zach LaVine and Coby White. And they've been a strong defensive rebounding team for much of this season, particularly in helping fuel a top-10 defensive rating.
But this marked the second time this season the Raptors prevailed by dominating the Bulls on the offensive glass. And Toronto now owns a critical playoff tiebreaker as a result.