It’s gone from a side conversation to one of the most perplexing storylines in the NBA. The Toronto Raptors simply cannot beat the Chicago Bulls. Tonight, they were teed up with their best opportunity in a while — no Dwyane Wade, no Nikola Mirotic, and a remaining roster that’s the most dysfunctional this side of New York City.
Of course, the sliding Raptors could not take advantage of such an opportunity. They trailed most of the game to the Bulls, tried to climb back in late, but fell short. The Bulls won 105-94, and the Raptors have lost 11 straight to the Bulls and 11 of their last 15 games overall.
We were all feeling so good about the Serge Ibaka acquisition earlier in the day, so this all felt like a bit of a buzzkill. The Raptors probably could’ve used some scoring influx from outgoing Terrence Ross in this game, as Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan shot a combined 13-for-36 to get to 40 points (22 for Lowry, 18 for DeMar). The team as a whole made just five three-pointers, four of which were made by Lowry. DeRozan, for his part, was a -14 and spent a lot of the game complaining to the referees and was ejected for it.
Where to begin with these Raptors in 2017? This effort was pitiful, especially for all the rah-rah talk coming out of the collapses against Minnesota and Detroit. The Bulls were able to win, even with their sole star Jimmy Butler shooting 2-for-10. This is mostly due to his long night at the free throw line, where he made 15-of-19 to get to 19 points. The Bulls were led by (who else?) Doug McDermott, who had 20 points on 8-for-13 shooting. Taj Gibson chipped in 14 and four rebounds.
The Raptors played some horrid defense on the perimeter to get the Bulls to their 35 team free throw attempts. So much so that Dwane Casey benched Jonas Valanciunas in favour of Lucas Nogueira yet again down the stretch, despite Jonas’ early flurry being the only positive for the team. Valanciunas had the team’s first four points of the evening, and looked like the only brute on a team plagued with apathy.
On the bright side, though, Delon Wright got to play!
First 2 points of the season for @delonwright. #RTZ pic.twitter.com/ipJ1VbsYBn— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) February 15, 2017
(Okay, this isn’t much of a bright side.)
The Raptors last beat the Bulls on New Year’s Eve 2013, and Chicago has only gotten markedly worse since then. Still, the streak continues — both between the Bulls and Raptors, and for the Raptors slow slide into the back half of the Eastern Conference playoff standings.
Toronto now awaits the arrival of Serge Ibaka, who god willing can spike some adrenaline into this bunch.