Bulls

McDermott's career night propels Bulls to improbable win over Raptors

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McDermott's career night propels Bulls to improbable win over Raptors

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."

[REPLAY: Watch McDermott's career night in the Bulls' win over the Raptors]

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.

Jabari Parker channels his inner Uncle Drew: This game is about getting buckets

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USA TODAY

Jabari Parker channels his inner Uncle Drew: This game is about getting buckets

The Bulls gave Jabari Parker a two-year, $40 million deal for good reason.

One, the Bulls had the salary cap space to get the deal done and had just about filled out their roster. The money wasn't going to be used elsewhere. Also, the second year of the deal is a team option which gives the Bulls some security should Parker not be able to stay healthy or play up to the standards such a salary commands.

Parker was given that money for multiple reasons. One of those reasons was not for his defense.

But, according to Parker, no one gets paid for their defense.

Speaking on 670 The Score on Wednesday, Parker was asked about whether he felt he had the ability and effort to defend in the NBA, something he hasn't done particularly well in four seasons.

"I just stick to my strengths. Look at everybody in the league. They don’t pay players to play defense," Parker said. "There’s only two people historically that play defense. I’m not going to say I won’t, but to say that’s a weakness is like saying that’s everybody’s weakness. Because I’ve scored 30 and 20 on a lot of guys that say they play defense.

"If you know the game, you also know that everyone’s a pro, right? And you know that certain guys have an average. No matter what you do, they still get that average. They pay people to score the ball, and I would hope that somebody scores the ball on me if they pay them that much. So, I’m not saying that to cop out or nothing. It’s the NBA. We’re professionals. Everybody scores. It’s just about limiting them as much as you can, trying to contain them."

Parker's right in one sense, that players are usually paid for their offensive output. There are also more tangible, easily read statistics on the offensive end than there are defensively. Heck, the Bulls gave $80 million to Zach LaVine and he was the team's worst defender last season.

But then again, defense matters. A whole lot, especially at a time when offenses are better than ever (thus making defenders more valuable). The final four teams in last year's playoffs were ranked 1st, 6th, 9th and LeBron James (29th) in defensive efficiency.

A day after Parker's comments the Celtics gave Marcus Smart a four-year, $52 million contract. He's a career 37 percent shooter and has made 29 percenet of his 3-pointers in four seasons.

So while Parker, a below-average defender, might not be entirely accurate, at least he's owning who he is. And if he scores like he did in Year 3, averaging 20 points before re-tearing his ACL, no one will care how he defends.

Kawhi Leonard joins Raptors in the East; it could be good news for the Bulls

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Kawhi Leonard joins Raptors in the East; it could be good news for the Bulls

The best player in basketball left the Eastern Conference two weeks ago when LeBron James signed with the Lakers. Now another top-10 player in the league is on the move, as the Spurs dealt All-Pro Kawhi Leonard to the Raptors in exchange for DeMar DeRozan.

The Raptors, in essence, are going for it. General manager Masai Ujiri made a calculated decision that his current core - or more accurately, his top combination of Kyle Lowry and DeRozan - couldn't get over the hump. They've bowed out to LeBron James and the Cavs each of the last three years (including two sweeps) and, despite James moving to the West, now face legitimate tests in Boston and Philadelphia.

That's why Ujiri was willing to move DeRozan, the face of the franchise who had been with the team since he was drafted there in 2009, for a shot to get over the hump in the East. As talented as the four-time All-Star DeRozan is, he can't match what Leonard brings to the table on both sides of the ball. They also added wing Danny Green in the trade, making them a better team in the short-term.

That's where the Bulls come in.

Both Leonard and Green have one year remaining on their contracts. It's been well-documented that Leonard wants to play in his hometown of Los Angeles, meaning there's a better-than-not chance he plays just one season with the Raptors. Of course we saw what happened with Paul George and the Thunder, so never say never. It just appears likely at this point. Also, Green was more a function of making the dollars and cents work out in the deal; the 31-year-old probably isn't part of Toronto's long-term plans.

In other words, this could be Toronto's last shot. DeRozan had three years left on his contract, and Jakob Poeltl (also part of the deal) is entering the third year of his rookie contract. If the Raptors don't win in 2018 and Leonard bolts for the Lakers or Clippers, Toronto is looking at tearing it all down and entering, more or less, a rebuild phase. Both Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka will be on the final years of their contracts, and the team might be willing to build around young role players in Fred VanVleet, OG Anunoby, Delon Wright and Norman Powell.

That's certainly a team the Bulls could move past in the following two seasons. With a young core that includes Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen, Wendell Carter Jr., Kris Dunn and Jabari Parker - plus next year's first-round pick - the Bulls will be trending upward as the Raptors attempt to pick up the pieces on a potentially failed dice roll on Leonard. Had the Raptors run it back with DeRozan they'd at least have their core in tact through 2020 (and DeRozan has a player option for 2021).

So while the Raptors were going to be ahead of the Bulls in the standings regardless this year, their window to compete in the long-term closed by swapping DeRozan for Leonard. That's good news for the Bulls in the coming years.