Then, the Bulls bench hit the floor with Luol Deng and went on a 20-0 run to spark a 94-82 win for over the home team in Toronto.
Last season, no 5-man lineup in the NBA had a better plus-minus-per-100-possessions that the Bulls' bench+1 lineup of Deng, Omer Asik, Taj Gibson, Ronnie Brewer, and C.J. Watson. Last night that bench unit, with Kyle Korver in the starting Brewer place and John Lucas III in Watson's, shut the Raptors down in a way the starters couldn't all game.
And that's what runs are: defense. Talk about wanting more guys who can create their shot all you want, but ask Carmelo Anthony how to create long, long runs to close gaps and come back without a defense keeping the opponents at zero for that stretch.
The Bench Mob that made the aforementioned achievement of last season sucked offensively, compared to the rest of the league, but far outscored opposing units because of defense. Last night's game re-affirmed the philosophy that's made Tom Thibodeau the quickest coach in NBA history to reach 100 wins: the best offense is your defense.
It was another night where Thibs sat Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah for a full fourth quarter -- the first in a long time, though. The Bench-plus-one played all but the last 84 seconds of the fourth, only because Watson relieved Lucas.
The Raptors suck and they showed how much last night. But the Bulls are ridiculously deep to have a bench comeback against any NBA team while two of the best bench players, Brewer and Watson, were starting in the place of the injured Richard Hamilton and reigning MVP Derrick Rose.
On a personal note: I'm deeply saddened by the tragic death of Chicago media icon Lacy J. Banks.
In journalism, as any business where consumption is so highly dependent of the subjective perspective of the masses, being a minority makes creating credibility in the hearts and minds of consumers all the harder for a "trailblazer" like Banks, when he landed his job with the Sun-Times in 1972. Growing up in Chicago as an avid reader with parents that stressed the value of reading and being in touch with current events, it was so valuable to see a 'non-white' face credited with writing the articles I was reading, including those by Banks which taught more about sports I deeply loved -- enriching my priceless childhood.
This may not mean much to anyone, but anyone of color with a passion for writing understands that unconscious default of never seeing any face the same color as you throughout a whole newspaper of magazine of record. I'm only 29-years-old and among the up-and-coming within academia only because men like Banks put their colored face on substances that proved credibility within the merit of their craft, among many other pioneers.
I can't imagine the adversity he faced because I'll never experience anything close to that. I have experienced some and will encounter more along the road, but there's always another employer or mentor or business down the road. Banks had exponentially less opportunity.
For that reason, he had to put forth an exponentially greater effort just to keep his foot in the door, let alone get it in there. And after succeed in the face of that adversity, the evil demon of cancer took such an admirable life from us.
My thoughts are with his family.
EDIT: Thanks to Ozzie Montana for sharing Sam Smith's heartfelt response to Banks' passing.