Coming into tonight, it felt like the Raptors were due for some good karma. After an assortment of injuries and a blowout loss to the Magic, hosting Chicago seemed like a surefire way to end 2018 on a high note.
Even The Raptor was doing his part to keep spirits high, as Kyle Lowry sat out again with quad and back issues, messing with everyone’s favourite nemesis Robin Lopez before the game.
In the end, while the Raptors did get the 95-89 win over the Bulls — who have less wins so far this fall than the Chicago Bears — it didn’t come pretty, with some sections of the game almost unwatchable on both sides.
The win improves the Raptors to 27-11, while the Bulls fall to 10-27.
Toronto was led, as you’d expect, by Kawhi Leonard. Shaking off a bad shooting night, which he certainly wasn’t alone in accomplishing, Kawhi had 27 points and nine rebounds. While he was just 8-for-22 from the field, Leonard did what superstars do and balanced his line at the charity stripe, making 10-of-11.
In solid support was Pascal Siakam, who was the only Raptors player to shoot over 50%, on his way to 20 points (7-for-12), 12 rebounds, and four assists.
Spicy double-double for P— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) December 31, 2018
16 Points - 11 Rebounds pic.twitter.com/1V06rb0K85
Facing one of the worst teams in the league, the Raptors’ start was... slow. The home team managed just 14 points in the first quarter, as Nick Nurse quickly went deep into his bench to look for a spark. Both Chris Boucher and Lorenzo Brown came in for a fix in the first half, with the Montreal native offering his best effort on this truly ridiculous block.
Besides a highlight reel play, though, there wasn’t a thorough response from the Raptors. While they beat Chicago by seven in the second, they scored just 40 in the first half.
Basically, it came down to this: anyone who usually makes a shot for the Raptors couldn’t make one in this game. Norman Powell, OG Anunoby, and Fred VanVleet combined to shoot 3-for-15 from distance, as the team ended up making just nine of their 33 three-point attempts. Thankfully turnovers didn’t exacerbate the issue, as Toronto committed just 11 on the evening to the Bulls’ 16.
For Chicago, a balanced effort from their starters kept them within striking distance in the second half. Lauri Markkanen ended as the high point man with 18 points and ten rebounds, but rookie Wendell Carter Jr. impressed by the eye test with 16 points and 11 boards of his own. Dragging the Bulls down was their backcourt, though, as Zach LaVine went just 3-for-17 from the field for 13 points and Kris Dunn committed four turnovers, shooting just 6-for-15 for 14 points.
In the fourth quarter, the Raptors bench created enough distance to seal the win. Back-to-back threes from Delon Wright and Pascal Siakam stretched the lead to nine early on. While the Bulls would scratch into this lead as the game dwindled, it never turned into anything dangerous.
The Raptors now look forward to 2019, as they open January 1 with a home game against the Utah Jazz.