Enhanced Box Score: Raptors 104, Bulls 98 – February 28, 2023
Tonight looked exactly like a game between two teams fighting to make the Play-In Tournament … and I don’t mean that as a compliment.
While the Chicago Bulls’ small starting lineup struggled to score on the Raptors’ length, the Raptors struggled to score on the Bulls’ scrappy defense. It led to a slogfest of a first half, where no team was able to muster more than 24 points in either of the first two quarters.
The only times that the Bulls were able to string together some points came in transition. They were clearly making an effort to get ahead of the Raptors’ more sizable defense, and it did lead to two separate 10-0 runs over the first half that played a big role in helping the Bulls establish a slim lead.
Ayo Dosunmu, in particular, did a nice job setting the tone off the bench. Not only did help push the pace in transition, but he had a couple of decisive short mid-range pull-ups.
Speaking of the Bulls’ youngsters, with the 3rd quarter continuing to be a rather ugly back-and-forth affair, Patrick Williams made some huge plays to help shut down a potential Raptors run. He hit back-to-back confident jumpers before helping get a much-needed stop on the other end.
Still, while the bench provided an encouraging youthful spark, the starting lineup simply couldn’t take control of this game. The Raptors’ length and physicality proved to be a serious problem for the Bulls earlier this season, and we saw nothing but the same as this game went on. They finished the night with an absurd 19-6 advantage in the offensive rebounding department, which led to a 15-4 advantage in second-chance points. Toronto also forced Chicago into 20 turnovers – their most in five games – and Toronto added 21 more points off those screw-ups.
I have zero clue why head coach Billy Donovan allowed the bleeding to continue on the offensive glass. While I can understand that the Caruso-Beverley combo provides the best defensive potential, the lineup was struggling so heavily to rebound that it felt like Patrick Williams should have seen some closing minutes.
Even more frustrating, the Bulls shot 52.1 percent from the field and held the Raptors to just 40.4 percent. Thanks to those OREBS and points off TOVs, however, the Raptors were able to shoot 23 more field goal attempts than the Bulls.
The ‘Beverley Bump’ that we saw over those first two games was nice, but this looked far more like the same old Bulls that have failed to take advantage of opportunities all season long. A win tonight could have moved the team just a half-game out from re-entering the Play-in Tournament. Likewise, it would have given Chicago a potentially crucial tiebreaker advantage over Toronto.
Alas, here we are. The Bulls must now throw this game away and get ready to play in less than 24 hours against the Pistons. See ya tomorrow.
Check out the full box score here.