The malaise around the Raptors feels all-encompassing now. You could feel it at the beginning of the game, with the half-empty ACC and the quiet crowd. (Was it because of the 7pm start? Or the recent play of this Toronto team?) And you could see it by the end, as the Raptors let the Bulls run roughshod over their squad on their way to a 116-103 win. This game - this season - is now really taking its toll.
Heading into the game, the Bulls held the season series at 3-0. Despite an injury-riddled roster (for Chicago, what else is new?), they've had the Raptors' number all season long. And Toronto, for its part, keeps finding more insulting ways to lose to the Bulls. First, a big nationally televised game, then a crushing 49-point fourth quarter, then an unrelenting beatdown. Tonight? The Bulls shot 61 percent from the field and 52 percent from three. The Raps, with their 47 percent shooting and 42 percent from three, tried to fight fire with fire and got, well you know, burned.
A glance at the box score highlights few positives. Terrence Ross appears to have rediscovered his confidence (and shooting stroke with a 7-for-11 night and 16 points); he made moves into the lane, and mixed it up with shots both inside and outside the arc. Greivis Vasquez hit his peak swag mode for awhile and that was fun. He dropped 22 points, including 6-for-11 from three. Lou Williams remained Sweet Lou. And sure, DeRozan waged war against the marauding Jimmy Butler all night. Points to him for that.
Still, we should be angry. This team should be angry. The Bulls went off for another huge fourth quarter, this time for 39 points. The Raptors' D could offer little resistance as Aaron Brooks, Tony Snell (17 points in 17 minutes, by the way) and Nikola Mirotic dropped bombs from all over the court. When winning time came, the Bulls found ways to make plays and expose the Raptors. And that malaise, oh it felt crushing.
Coach Dwane Casey said the team "ran out of gas." He didn't say it was an excuse, but the apparent exhaustion feels deeper than the kind experienced on a typical back-to-back. Toronto isn't just looking forward to the playoffs now, it feels like they're looking forward to the end of the season. This is where we end up when expectation turns to disappointment, and disappointment turns to reality. With less than a minute to go, the crowd drained out of the arena. What else could be said?
Sigh. Shrug. The Raptors are just not good enough.