Turns out that the momentum from Friday night’s dramatic win in Milwaukee didn’t last long, as the Bulls (9-13) put forth a lackluster effort Saturday evening at the United Center en route to a 99-77 loss to the Raptors (9-13).
By virtue of inefficient offense (or stout defense, if you prefer a half-full glass outlook on life), the game was a close-knit, low-scoring affair in the opening period. Marquis Teague ran the show in lieu of the injured Kirk Hinrich and the presence of All-Star small forward Luol Deng (17 points, seven rebounds, four assists), back in the lineup after missing four consecutive games with a sore left Achilles’, certainly helped matters for the depleted Bulls.
Backup power forward Patrick Patterson, acquired in Toronto’s recent trade with Sacramento, came off the bench to give the Raptors some offensive firepower and after a quarter of play, the Bulls were behind, 24-21.
Deng made an impact early in his return, but even his solid all-around game couldn’t prevent Toronto from building a cushion early in the second frame, as the backcourt of swingman DeMar DeRozan and point guard Kyle Lowry, who is rumored to be on the trading block, was effective scoring the ball.
The Raptors’ improved shooting from the field—the familiar bugaboo of defending the three-point line reared its ugly head, as Toronto shot 5-for-11 from behind the arc in the first half—left the Bulls facing a 51-41 deficit at the intermission.
After the break, the Raptors extended their double-digit advantage, courtesy of a 6-0 run that saw youngsters Jonas Valanciunas and Terrence Ross get involved offensively. But the Bulls answered back behind contributions from the wing tandem of Deng and Jimmy Butler (11 points), as well as the continued high activity level of All-Star center Joakim Noah (10 points, 12 rebounds, four assists).
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Still, although Butler and veteran reserve Mike Dunleavy Jr. (14 points) provided a boost, the well-balanced Raptors’ comfortable margin of separation persisted, as poor outside shooting and the lack of consistent interior offense plagued the Bulls, leading to a 73-66 uphill battle heading into the final stanza.
Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau continued his platoon system at point guard—Teague started the game, played the entire first and third quarters, while newcomer D.J. Augustin did the same in the second period and started the fourth, playing almost the entire frame—but it didn’t pay immediate dividends, in terms of trimming the deficit.
Actually, no adjustments that were made in the frame helped much, as the Bulls’ shooting woes doomed them to another loss against a so-called inferior opponent, as the Raptors’ lead ballooned to over 20 points in the game’s stretch run, during which the likes of journeyman Mike James and rookie Erik Murphy saw action.