Luckily for the Raptors, the Bulls were experiencing their first back-to-back of the season as well.
In the first quarter, the Raptors continued their turnover woes from the first couple of games. They turned the ball over six times. The Bulls, however, didn’t capitalize on the turnovers nearly as much as the Boston Celtics did the night before. The season is still early, but the Raptors absolutely have to fix their turnover issues if they want to make any headway in the Eastern Conference.
On the other hand, the Bulls were horrendous from the field — whether because of the defensive effort of the Raptors or not. The Bulls shot 16 of 50 from the field in the first half for just a 32.0 percent overall in the half. The Raptors were nominally better, but both teams visually looked tired with flat shots and sloppy finishes at the rim.
Since it was the second night of a back-to-back, Nick Nurse had to extend into his bench further and we were graced with our first Matt Thomas sighting in the second quarter. He promptly scored six points for the Raptors.
OG Anunoby was a stark highlight for the Raptors in the first half, too, as he recorded three dunks and two sensational blocks that had colour man, Jack Armstrong, reeling. His athleticism and physicality showed when other players were merely sluggish.
Yet, whatever speech Nurse said in the locker room at the half he should put in a safety deposit box because the Raptors put on a fantastic display in the third quarter. They started out gunning, hitting their first four three-pointers and had crisp ball movement.
Additionally, Marc Gasol may have finally awoken from his hangover as he started making quality assists of all types — screen, hockey, and regular — and rebounding. He didn’t bother shooting much tonight (only two attempts), but his presence was felt much more than in either the Boston Celtics or New Orleans Pelicans games. Moreover, Serge Ibaka and Kyle Lowry rekindled their relationship with a few pick and roll plays, which we have come to know as their bread and butter.
The defence was stout during the third quarter, which saw the lead balloon to as high as 22 points in the quarter. Furthermore, the defence held the Bulls to 29 percent from the field from the second quarter until the end of the game.
Because of the game being relatively out of hand for most of the fourth quarter, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson made his debut with the Raptors. He played mostly meaningless minutes without much to highlight. It seems that he still isn’t in the trusted doghouse of Nick Nurse despite the other newly acquired counterpart, Stanley Johnson, earning meaningful playing time.
The Raptors also topped the Bulls on the glass, 58-46, yet did give up 12 offensive rebounds to their own ten. While the glass wasn’t as much of an issue in this game, it was apparent that the Bulls were attempting to out-rebound the Raptors by flying into the paint for the most of the first half.
Likewise, the turnovers didn’t dispel the Raptors this game, but they were still sloppy at times with 24 turnovers and 18 points for the Bulls off said turnovers. The Raptors will have to play better against veteran teams in both departments if they want to continue to win. Yet, the Raptors were able to take advantage of the young, up-and-coming Bulls; it literally seemed like rookie Coby White was stuffed at the rim 25 times.
Overall, it was a team oriented win, as noted by 27 assists on 38 field goals; all the key players stood out and made important plays. Yet, OG Anunoby really played well for the entirety of the game racking up 17 points, 6 rebounds, and 2 assists to go along with 4 blocks. He shot 7 for 11 from the field and 3 for 6 from beyond the arc. The confidence on his three-point shot seemed to be there and he fired without much hesitation. OG is someone that the Raptors are hoping makes a Siakam-like leap. A big goal, perhaps, but ostensibly attainable.
It was a good way to cap off the first week of the season. Nurse is still slowly making his way through the new, working parts and piecing together his rotations. It does seem, however, that the long, championship run prior to this year left both Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet with extremely high confidence. Similarly, it seems that missing out on the playoffs has left OG itching for more opportunities to showcase his skills — he certainly did so today.
The Raptors next face the Orlando Magic on Monday, which is a rematch of the first round series from the playoffs last season. In order to be competitive, ultimately, the Raptors must take care of the basketball as the Magic can certainly take advantage with high-flying, rim-running offense. The second week is coming, so early season disarray and championship hangover will soon be faulty excuses.