With arguably their top 4 players out, the Bulls were going to need something special to get a win even against a lottery team like the Raptors. They got in Jimmy Butler's night, but there wasn't enough supplemental help to keep the Raptors from a wire-to-wire 101-98 victory.
Might as well lead with Butler anyway: he played all 48 minutes, and finished with a career-high 28 points on 10-12 shooting. Also had 7 rebounds. But most impressive was his 3-3 on corner three-pointers on the evening: with this team at full strength Jimmy won't be asked to do as much as he took on tonight, but he'll need to hit those 3s. He of course was required to really expand his offense in this one, and he delivered in what was the most thrilling part of the night for the Bulls. The idea of him playing 48 minutes alone with his style of play is impressive. Beyond what he did on offense (where at times he was the whole offense), Butler had the primary assignment on Rudy Gay all night (who was pretty good but didn't match Butler), and was his usual active self trying to get his hands on nearly every offensive rebound. He truly plays from baseline-to-baseline, and never really lets fatigue set in. Great night from him.
The rest of it was not so great. Toronto sprinted out to a 18-3 lead and sustained it behind a varied attack from their wings Gay (19 points on 14 shots) and DeMar DeRozan (20 points on 13 shots). The Raptors shot what looked to be a fairly remarkably good percentage on mid-range two-pointers, but those guys certainly deserve credit for making those looks, whether it was coming off of screens or simply going isolation. The Raptors shot over 51% overall, nearly 39% from three, and and impressive 20-24 from the line. They may have had some good fortune (Amir Johnson even hit a couple jumpers) but they also did a good job exploiting the deficiencies of lower-end of the Bulls depth chart: whether it was Lowry sizing up Nate, or Jonas Valanciunas pump-faking Nazr (though the old man did more than enough on the offensive boards), or whoever attacking Marco Belinelli: the Raptors didn't seem to have much of a structured plan, but they made a lot of fine individual plays.
In other news that hopefully trends towards a more healthy playoff team, Rip Hamilton returned unexpectedly after missing the past 19 games with back (and just old-man) issues. He didn't show much in his 14 minutes off the bench, but made a couple of shots, threw one terrible lob attempt, and thus was better than Daequan Cook.
Another odd rotation difference was an extended appearance from Summer League hero Malcolm Thomas, who was recently signed for the rest of the season by the team. Thomas blew away his career high with 26 minutes tonight, finishing a +9 overall in that time and was the part of a key 2nd half run (after the Bulls fell down 16) to make the game interesting at the end. Thomas showed a lot of activity in his time on the floor and put up 6 points and 8 rebounds. He also showed some bad hands at times, and blew several defensive rotations. But I don't even think we can ask him to be better than Vlad Radmanovic, just not actually be Vlad Radmanovic. And he wasn't, so good game from him.
But beyond Jimmy's big night, just not enough from elsewhere. Carlos Boozer started the game extremely cold and shot 7-20. Nate Robinson got to 22 points but shot 7-22, hitting enough threes to try and build momentum towards another Bulls comeback win but missing just enough shots to keep that from being completed. He did get some time against his former placeholder John Lucas III, and that was neat. Nate's desperate attempts in the final minutes also wound up with another controversial reviewed out-of-bounds call, as his missed FT was ruled a jump ball after it was indeterminable who touched it last. The Bulls gained possession down 3 points but...it was a mess.
A win would've been better, of course, as the Bulls really could use getting that 5th seed (or potentially home court) in a playoff matchup against Brooklyn. But such standings-watching isn't nearly as important as getting guys healthy. Seeing Jimmy Butler pressed into action and shining in that time isn't a bad side-effect, either.