The Toronto Raptors took their game to Chicago last night, where—after 3 back-and-forth quarters—they finally put the Bulls away 124-115. Here are my thoughts.
Five quick thoughts on a Toronto Raptors victory over the Chicago Bulls that was much closer than it had any right to be…
The starters might have played their best game of the season
Every starter except Norman Powell shot better than 50%, every starter hit a three, and every starter except Norm had at least four rebounds. OK, it was another tough night for Norm. But overall the starters played a complete first quarter, a complete third quarter, and held the fort in fourth when things looked dicey…
This time, it was the bench that (almost) squandered things
On Sunday, the bench brought the Raptors back against the Wizards, and the starters blew it, giving up a late 12-2 run. On Tuesday, the starters began subbing out up 18 in the third; the Bulls slowly started catching up, 17, then 15, then finally Bobby Portis went on a mini-run and it was 108-98, and Kyle Lowry, Jonas Valanciunas and Norman Powell came back in. The momentum had clearly swung and it got as close as 3 in the final minute before the Raps closed it out.
Three-pointers were the difference—in the Raptors favor, for once
The Raptors had their best shooting night from distance, going 13-25 from behind the arc. That’s still not enough volume on threes—they need to be shooting at least 30 a night to make their offense really sing. But getting CJ Miles 6 shots is a good thing. Lowry’s 1-4 remains disconcerting, though he did finish 7-13 overall (and, you know, didn’t get ejected). And I’m still not willing to get too excited by DeMar DeRozan’s 2-2 night.
The passing still isn’t where it should be
The Raptors assisted on 22 of 44 made field goals, which is not terrible but again, not where they need to be to succeed as a ball-movement oriented offense.
The rotation is still too deep
I know it’s only 10 games and there’s still lots of time to figure it out. But I’m surprised Dwane Casey’s still playing 12 guys. I know it’s not an easy call, but, that’s why he’s the coach! I think he needs to shorten the rotation to 10, maybe 9. To me, the first two choices have to be Fred VanVleet (fine last night, after his great performance the other night) and Lucas Noguiera (invisible in 10 minutes last night). The third choice is the most difficult; it should be one of Pascal Siakam or OG Anunoby, and they’ve been very, very similar so far this year. I do think Anunoby might’ve the slightly higher upside, though, so I might give him a 10-game run.
The Raps have one game left in this mini-home stand before going back out on the road for three. Here’s hoping they close it out with a win against the Pelicans on Thursday!
Five thoughts on an easy Raptors victory:
- Kyle and DeMar looked kinda like… playoff Kyle and DeMar. Shots were off, they were hesitant at times, and tried to force things other times. Ibaka was also kinda invisible. Norm and Jonas looked good though! Jonas missed a few chippies (and bricked a triple) but had a pretty complete game, Norm was aggressive and on point from deep.
- The bench was sensational. The full platoon change in the final minutes of Q1 was an oddity, but it worked! The amazing thing is, all five subs played well. Sure, Anonuby had his rookie moments (a weak drive), Poetl continues to pick up cheap fouls (two moving screens) and VanVleet’s shot looked off, but as a unit they blew the Bulls off the floor. And CJ and Delon were the best players in the game, along with Jonas.
- The Bulls are… wow, they are bad. I know they were missing two potential starters (because they got in a fistfight in practice, come on now) but still… that’s a really terrible NBA team.
- I definitely have issue with Casey leaving Kyle and DeMar in as long as he did in the fourth (especially bringing them back with two minutes left). He said he wanted to give them extra minutes to shake off the rust, and I guess I get it, but man… the injury risk is so high. Much greater that the reward of a couple extra minutes of burn, in my mind.
- CJ Miles is a pure gunner, and while he’s definitely not going 6-9 every night from downtown I love that the Raps have someone like that on the team. A deep threat like that opens up the floor for others—witness the drives that Anonuby and Wright had—and keeps the defense moving.
It’s tough to judge too much on one game against a weak opponent, but every win counts! Nice to see the Raps open the season this way.