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Raptors cruise by the Bulls, win 124-101

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Led by Fred VanVleet with 23 points, the Raptors got contributions from up and down the roster to take down a thinned-out Bulls team.

NBA: Toronto Raptors at Chicago Bulls Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

The Raptors — without OG Anunoby, Kawhi Leonard, Patrick McCaw, and Pascal Siakam — weren’t even the shorthanded team tonight. The Bulls were out seven (!!) rotation players, with talented players such as Lauri Markkanen and Zach LaVine on the shelf. The game was never in doubt.

Nick Nurse started the game with an ultra big lineup featuring Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka — a look we don’t see very often. It worked fine. Nothing stood out about the lineup, which is probably a good sign. The team looked for Ibaka early and he delivered, putting up eight points and six rebounds in the first quarter, along with terrific interior defense. He straight up stopped Bulls players in their tracks on a couple of drives. It was clear the Raptors were going pull away. From the first quarter on, it was going to be Nick Nurse’s responsibility to find the right lineups and keep veterans’ minutes in check.

The Raptors got contributions from up and down the roster. Jordan Loyd played his 10th game of the season with the big club and Jodie Meeks hit floater after floater, to the excitement of everyone on the bench. Another fun subplot was Jeremy Lin’s play. He made two threes, canned an open jumper in the pick-and-roll, and had a strong passing game. Opening up the fourth quarter he made two drive-and-dishes for wide open threes from Ibaka and Powell. It’s nice timing for Lin, who was falling a bit out of favour on the team’s depth chart. Tonight marks back-to-back good games from Lin, who chipped in with 12 points, three assists, and two steals.

An enjoyable plot from the Bulls perspective was seeing Rawle Alkins, who was a standout performer with the Raptors Summer League team in July. On a two-way contract with the Bulls, he played well tonight, putting up seven points, eight rebounds, and five assists. Other than that there wasn’t much to see on the Bulls side. They had players checking into the game that took everyone by surprise. Walter Lemon Jr. anyone? It turns out that it was his 6th career game. To his credit, he played well, surprising people with his athleticism on the court.

Coming out of halftime, the Raptors found some chemistry with their bigs. Surveying from the low-post, Gasol found Ibaka for the lay-in. That is just one moment from a great Gasol quarter. He was more aggressive looking for his offense tonight and you could hear him barking defensive assignments from the TV. On the game, he had 17 points, eight rebounds, and six assists — close to his Raptors-high of 19 points.

And it wouldn’t truly be a blowout without the Raptors’ victory cigar, Chris Boucher, launching up a three pointer in the fourth quarter (he attempted one, and missed). After tonight’s win, the Raptors will move on from the East-dwellers to more competitive teams battling for a playoff spot. For now, they will take a win. Only five games to go.