Some nights things go as expected and tonight was one of those nights.
In a game where the Raps were missing three of their starters the were absolutely dominated by a red-hot Chicago Bulls team.
This was a game to forget.
To be honest this game was over as soon as it was announced that Andrea Bargnani would be sitting this one out with a knee issue. Already short Reggie Evans and Jose Calderon the final nail was in the coffin even before the opening tip.
That's not meant to be a negative statement. It's just unrealistic to expect a young, inexperienced and short-handed Raptors team to compete with this Chicago Bulls team.
The Bulls are downright impressive. With Carlos Boozer, the teams biggest off-season acquisition, with his legs under him the Bulls are now hitting their stride and on a roll. The team is set at the point-guard, power forward and center position for years to come, have a very good coach in Tom Thibodeau (more on him below) and perhaps most importantly, a clear identity. They rely on their rebounding (2nd in the league) and their defense (9th) to win games. They also run beautiful half-court sets.
The Bulls and the Raptors are simply at different stages at this point in time. While the Raptors are using this season to build, get their young guys some experience and look to the future, for the Bulls the future is now.
It was evident early that this wasn't going to be much of a game. In the opening quarter it was obvious that the Bulls were going to be able to get any shot they wanted and lots of them. Boozer and Noah each had a double double and the Raptors young big men just couldn't match-up on the glass. The Bulls were quick to recognize the huge advantage they had in the front court and they went back to the well over and over again.
For the Raptors big-men this was a lesson. School was in. The teacher? Boozer. The students? Ed Davis and Joey Dorsey. Each of Davis and Dorsey did have a double double as Davis went for 10 points and 10 rebounds while Dorsey had 12 points and 13 rebounds, but they were no match for Carlos Boozer.
There is value in these lessons. Ed Davis needs to experience these sorts of nights and hopefully he remembers them when the off-season training rolls around. What Davis is experiencing is not unlike what Bosh experienced in his first season. He is simply too slight, too raw and too inexperienced. He does, much like Bosh in 2003, show flashes. Although Davis has logged limited minutes this season he is showing potential.
For Dorsey this was an opportunity to show he should get more burn - in particular with Reggie Evans sporting the crutches. Dorsey has an extremely wide body and has a knack for getting rebounds. He made a good case for getting a few more minutes tonight.
Te Raptors also got good performances out of Jerryd Bayless and Leandro Barbosa once again and once again the Raptors wing players struggled. Weems and DeRozan were non-factors while Linus Kleiza and Julien Wright did little to impress. In a game where the Raps needed all hands on deck it was their wing players who really let them down.
This lack of wing production is albeit disappointing. I fully expected DeRozan and Weems to experience growing pains but the production from Wright and Kleiza has been underwhelming. As I mentioned in the chat last night I would like to see all four of these guys have an equal opportunity and, depending on the flow of the game, let the hot hand play. I have a hard time believing that Wright is consistently being outplayed by Weems and DeRozan in practice.
The Raptors simply lost to the better team - and unlike in the recent game against the Pistons, there was no miracle comeback to be had. Even when the Raps did seem to get a little momentum Coach Thibodeau was quick with the time-outs and settled his players. By all accounts Thibodeau looks to be a great hire for the Bulls and although one game doesn't tell a full story it was obvious that he has complete control his team and has a great feel for the flow of a game. If he can keep the Bulls focused on the defensive end there is no reason, shy the injury bug, they can't be a major factor come playoff time. I couldn't help but think Jay Triano could learn a thing or two from his Bulls counterpart.
The Raps can't let this loss linger as there is a very winnable game coming on Friday night against the Nets at the ACC.
Last, although a small point, I was a little disappointed we didn't get to see Solomon Alabi on the court tonight. It would have been nice to see this kid get some burn.