It's a hard thing to determine in a basketball game: how much is offence and how much is defence? For the Raptors, taking on the Bulls this afternoon, it felt like their offence was on point. The team finished the game shooting 45 percent from the field, 43 percent from three and 84 percent from the line. They scored 113 points from a myriad of sources--the usual output from DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry, along with bigger than average totals from Luis Scola and Cory Joseph. In general, The Raptors defence was solid too: they rebounded well, didn't turn the ball over much (eight times), had six steals and eight blocks as a team. On paper, this was a solid game for Toronto.
But they lost to Jimmy Butler and the Bulls 115-113 anyway.
Not that it needs much explaining but here goes anyway: Butler was awesome today. After a quiet first half that saw him take just four shots for two points, he erupted in the second half for 40 (forty!) points on 15-for-23 shooting (including 2-for-3 from three and 10-for-11 from the line). It's a new Bulls franchise record for points in a half (set by guess who). It was a Butler three that gave the Bulls a very late lead in the fourth quarter. And it was Butler who seemed to make every big play on both ends of the court for Chicago. This after he took an errant elbow to the mouth from DeMarre Carroll, which may have served to set him off. "I was mad," said Butler after the game. "But I just came out and was just aggressive after that."
Taj says he'd never seen Butler as mad as after he was hit in the mouth. after that, was "a man possessed"— James Herbert (@outsidethenba) January 3, 2016
So the question is, after a disappointing game like this, how much of it was offence and how much defence? For the Raptors, scoring 113 points on the sixth best defence in the league is good news. But, on the other hand, allowing the 24th best offensive team score 115 points is bad. It's been encouraging to watch DeRozan hit three pointers (3-for-6 in the game) and play some of the best ball of his career. But concerning to see Lowry go through some bad shooting stretches (8-for-22 for the game, and 2-for-7 in the first half). And the late game execution, including two wild possessions down the stretch that resulted in two bad misses from DeRozan and Lowry, leaves a lot to be desired.
The lynchpin of all this two-way talk, however, is still DeMarre Carroll and what he brings to the Raptors. He had ten points and did his best to contain Butler, who got hot while Carroll sat. By the time Carroll got back into the game, it was too late. It's worth noting that Carroll is on a minutes restriction and as he himself admitted after the game, "I know I'm not all the way there."
What Carroll, and the Raptors, want to do is have both a powerful offence and defence. They want to have players like Lowry and DeRozan going for 22 and 24 points on the day, respectively, while guys like Jonas Valanciunas (8 points, 9 rebounds and 3 blocks) protect the paint. They want to keep teams from scoring 34 points in the fourth. And they want to stop players like Butler from putting on a clinic. For Carroll, he's not giving up. "Even though I didn't play that much in the second half," he said after the game, "I still take it upon myself at the end of the game... if I'm fine out there on one leg I'll still try and see a stop."
Most of all, and you can see where this is going, the Raptors want to beat a team like the Bulls, a team synonymous with toughness, a never-say-die attitude, and winning. The Raptors remain resolutely, infuriatingly, weirdly even, not there yet. They are now 21-14 and say hello to the other East team with a secure identity this season, the Cavaliers.
What did you guys think of the game?