It's times like these, a 100-93 loss to the Chicago Bulls, when we remember that the Raptors are not going to finish their season 81-1. You could say that after every loss, but against the contending Bulls, in a game broadcast nationally in the US, the sting of defeat feels significant. After getting outscored 35-14 in the third quarter and handing the game away, let's chalk it up as a learning experience instead.
"That's a good experience for us, you know, we coming off the win streak," Jonas Valanciunas said afterwards. "So that's good like a cold shower for us." It was Valanciunas with eight rebounds (four offensive) in the first half. He added eight points but watched again and again as Pau Gasol, who finished with 27 points on 12-for-17 shooting, carved the Raptors's interior D. Jonas watched the rest of the game from the bench. Cold shower, indeed.
James Johnson, the hero of the Orlando game on Tuesday, looked to build on his hero status with 16 points in the game (12 in the first half) on 7-for-9 shooting. Despite a defensive fury exhibited in the dying minutes of the fourth quarter, Johnson's effect seemed to shrink as the game went on. His words of wisdom? "Just move on," said Johnson. "A lot of shots that we take and make didn't go in." A simple lesson.
As for the "best backcourt in the Eastern Conference", Kyle Lowry was his usual hungry self. He scored 20 points on 8-for-19 shooting to go with eight assists and eight rebounds. He spearheaded an almost comeback in the fourth quarter but the Bulls didn't give in. "I think we just didn't play our game from start to finish. We played our game in spurts tonight."
And finally, DeMar DeRozan. With Jimmy Butler running wild (21 points, nine rebounds, six assists), DeRozan appeared to learn the most of all the Raptors as the game went on. He managed a meager 10 points on a ghastly 3-for-17 shooting night. With the Raptors on top of the Eastern Conference and expectations continuing to climb higher, DeRozan saw the teachable moment coming.
"I'm not worried about it at all," said DeRozan. "These games, you know, understanding they gonna happen, especially now. You just gotta learn from them."
As for the fans, one suspects the homework will be to repeat the same mantra: It's early, it's early, it's early.
Onward to game number ten. What did you guys think?