The Chicago Bulls played like they had something to prove tonight.
While the Toronto Raptors may have been without borderline All-Star Fred VanVleet, the team could say the same last night when they handed it to the Charlotte Hornets 125-113. Toronto has been an Eastern Conference riser in recent weeks, sitting in the 8th seed ahead of this game with an offensive rating that ranked 11th-best in the NBA. A smart and physical team with plenty of high-upside talent like Pascal Siakam, OG Anunoby, and Scottie Barnes, the Bulls’ “Big 3” showed them up in every which way during the first half.
The team started the night with a 66.7 percent shooting performance in the first frame, adding an assist to the board on their first 10 made field goals. DeRozan, LaVine, Green, and Vucevic claimed the first four baskets in that order, highlighting the kind of unselfish play we’ve seen from this offense all season long.
Chicago walked into the locker room with a 17-point advantage. Time to cruise, right? Wrong.
Nick Nurse reminded us why he is one of the best coaches in the league once the 3rd quarter got underway. Toronto ramped up the defensive intensity in the first-half, trapping Bulls ballhandlers and using their length to force the Bulls into some costly mistakes. The lead disappeared in the 4th quarter for a brief moment, but Chicago’s stars stepped up to reel things back in.
The moment after Scottie Barnes gave Toronto the lead, we watched Zach LaVine burst through the defense to draw the and-one. DeMar DeRozan followed that up with his own trip to the free-throw line on the next trip down. After a couple more tough defensive possessions, the ball found itself in Nikola Vucevic’s hand with 14.5 second to go. BANG. The big man iced the game from downtown.
Take a look at those numbers …
DeRozan: 29pts, 7ast, 7reb
LaVine: 23pts, 8ast, 8reb
Vucevic: 17pts, 8ast, 15reb
Three stars playing such unselfish basketball. It’s going to be hard to beat this team when they got it going like that.
— Bleacher Nation Bulls (@BN_Bulls) January 27, 2022
Everything wasn’t perfect tonight, and the team’s injury trouble was more than felt when the second unit had to take the floor, but this was a great reminder of why the Bulls built around these three talents. An unselfish bunch with complimentary skill sets and elite offensive capabilities, when they all find their groove, it’s very hard to take this team down.
Check out the full box score here.