Observations: Bulls handily beat Raptors behind bank explosion

The Bulls took care of things on Thursday night with a win over the 122-113 over the heavily shortened Toronto Raptors.

That pushes the Bulls’ current winning streak to three games, drawing two more season-high sets.

Here are 17 comments:

1. The Raptors only had eight available players for this one due to a combination of injuries, enforcing health and safety protocols, and suspensions as a result of a scuffle during their Tuesday night game with the Los Angeles Lakers.

2. Ironically, this game was a make-up for a match between these two teams, originally scheduled for February 28, which had to be pushed back as the Raptors couldn’t line up eight players at the time due to a combination of positive COVID-19 testing and contact trace.

3. The Bulls got off to a listless start, missing their first seven field goal attempts and were 16-7 behind. But they responded, scoring the Raptors 26-11 in the last seven minutes of the quarter behind 19 points combined from Zach LaVine (11 points in eight minutes) and Nikola Vučević (8 points).

4. The good times didn’t stop there. Between 6:56 of the first quarter and half time, the Bulls scored 57 points on 21-for-34 shots (61.8 percent). The Raptors, on the other hand, scored 45 points on 13-of-41 shots (31.7 percent) over the same period. At the break, the Bulls had an impressive 64-51 lead.

5. The Bulls developed separate 19-3 and 15-0 runs in that range. Regardless of the opponent, they are on the to win side of such spurts is remarkable after being wrong on such a theme early in the season.

6. Lauri Markkanen and Coby White picked up right where they left off after productive outings against the Pacers. Markkanen scored 9 points on 4-for-5 shooting and pulled down 3 rebounds in the first half; White poured in 10 points and buried two of his four three-point tries. Late in the third quarter, the two together scored eight Bulls points in a row to avoid a Raptors wave. Markkanen finished 18 points on 8-for-10 shots (2-for-4 from a 3-point range; his offensive play has included more driving and post-ups lately). White finished 15 points and three 3’s, although he had also made four turnovers and a few of them were unsightly.

Both have gotten their clumps over the course of this season, but if they can get this kind of spark off the pines at night, it would be immensely valuable.

7. The Bulls led the – decimated – Raptors in bench scoring 27-3 half way behind those 19 points from Markkanen and White, plus 8 points and 7 rebounds from Daniel Theis, who returned after missing a game for personal reasons. The difference in reserve scores ended at 47-20, with Markkanen, White and Theis (14 points, 10 rebounds, 3 assists) finishing with their highest respective scores since the transaction deadline.

8. Vučević scored 12 of his 22 points in that third quarter, finishing with a rather casual 22 points, 9 rebounds and 4 assists, shooting 3-for-6 from distance – if it’s possible to casually get such a stat-line to post.

9. But Pascal Siakam, who finished with 27 points on 17 shots, gave Vučević some trouble with the switches. Siakam’s 11 points for the third quarter helped the Raptors hang out longer than it looked.

10. Chris Boucher was also a problem. The impossibly stretchy fourth-year center had 38 points and 19 rebounds – both career highlights. He had a few scorching pieces in the second half that threatened the Bulls’ advantage and shot 3-for-7 from behind the arc.

11. LaVine gave a Bulls career-high 13 assists and finished with a dazzling +20 plus-minus. He scored his 22 points – seven in the second half – in 8-for-16 shots (2-for-8 from deep), but his impact was palpable. And believe him when he says he’s willing to sacrifice individual stats to pursue victories.

12. The Raptors reduced the deficit to just seven late in the fourth quarter. A handful of tense offensive possessions followed, but LaVine eventually pushed the lead back to nine with a tough lay-up with 87 seconds to play, and 12 minutes later a dagger 3-pointer to move up – even on a bad shooting night until that time point.

13. Donovan turned to Theis in Vučević’s place in the starting line-up for the last minute and a half, presumably due to the flexibility to switch defensively. Theis downed a seismic defensive rebound to get him his first double-double as Bull in the closing seconds.

14. Troy Brown Jr. again took the rotation into account and recorded 14 minutes. Denzel Valentine and Ryan Arcidiacono, meanwhile, have registered DNPs. Donovan drove Markkanen, White and Theis between 18 and 27 minutes each, good for a rotation of about 8.5 men. Perhaps an indication of how much these games mean to the Bulls, and Donovan settles into a regular rotation.

15. With 35 assists, the Bulls have now posted 26 or more dimes in eight consecutive games. It’s their 11th 30-assist game of the season, in which they are now 7-4. Every bull that played, except Brown, scored at least nine points, although 16 turnovers spoils that a bit.

16. Garrett Temple missed his fifth game in a row with a hamstring load. Donovan had no timeline for his return before the tip, saying Temple experienced “discomfort” last week trying to sprint in a straight line.

17. With the win, the Bulls advance their season streak with the Raptors, drawing two games ahead of them for the tenth seed in the East, finishing last in the play-in tournament. They follow the Indiana Pacers they have also won all of their season series against, with 1.5 games ahead of the ninth.

Next for the Bulls: At the Atlanta Hawks on Friday.

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