The Bulls found something in the second half of this game, a lineup with a Taj Gibson - Bobby Portis front line, wing defenders in Jimmy Butler and Tony Snell, and a good Aaron Brooks performance that spurred on the Bulls to a huge run in that half and put away the Toronto Raptors. The Bulls lead was in double-digits for most of that final quarter making it a rare comfortable victory against a good team, though it's now the 2nd in three games after their OKC win on Christmas.
The Bulls bench was a huge plus, as with Doug McDermott a late scratch with knee soreness (uh oh, that's twice in the past few weeks) some others had to step up. After receiving DNPs in 2 out of the last 3 games, Tony Snell scored his season high in the fourth quarter of this game, 16 of his 22 points overall. Snell shot 4-5 from three, and you could feel the confiden...ha I'm kidding that confidence talk is bunk. Tony shot the ball well and made some nice plays, and really should not have have been totally buried in the rotation in the first place.
Because this whole Nikola Mirotic starting at SF thing is goofy and bad, and once again didn't help either Niko or the Bulls. What did help in the start of both halves was another improved game from Derrick Rose. Rose started out the game very well pushing the pace and converting inside. He had 10 first-half points and then 10 more in the 3rd quarter, finishing with 20 (...math checks out) on 7-16 shooting helped by hitting 3 of 4 from distance.
He also did a great job collapsing the Raptors defense and freeing up looks from midrange for Pau Gasol, who shot very well with 22 of his own, coaxing some FTs off of loose balls when not getting totally abused on defense. Pau wasn't giving back all of what he made, but there was a lot of that, and Hoiberg isn't helping him by doing the Thibsian move of playing the old guy for entire quarters. But he's also the only true center on the active roster, which kind of ties his hands a bit.
Aaron Brooks was also finding Pau for these looks, and Bobby Portis as well (Portis hit some midrange shots and showed nice post-up moves in dominating Patrick Patterson), but also getting his own Aaron Brooks looks. In the 2nd quarter once Kyle Lowry was out of the game, Brooks turned it on in hitting 3 and-ones to get 13 of his 17 in the first half. While the Raptors had opened up an early lead behind Bulls-killer Luis Scola and the returning Jonas Valanciunis dinking and dumping their way over Gasol, Brooks's run brought the game back to close where it was until the end of the 3rd quarter.
For the Raptors, that inside finishing seemingly evaporated in that second half, as while in the first half they were turning the ball over in the 2nd they were just missing a lot of shots. Credit to Gibson and Portis for some of that, of course. Lowry led the Raptors with 28, as though Rose put in a good effort defensively Lowry is pretty good (though he'll get fined, hopefully, for this garbage). DeRozan chipped in a bit but their frontcourt gave them nothing after the first half, and bench did very little all game: Corey Joseph took 3 shots and was a -25 in 13 minutes, and the bench was a combined 1-10 from three.
The Bulls were 6-10 from three in the second half, and needed their superb bench outing, as Jimmy Butler had his worst game of the season shooting 2-7 for a mere 5 points in 35 minutes. But he was out there for that final run, in a lineup that Hoiberg left in very deep in the game. Gasol came back in at the 1:30 mark as per his contractual stipulations, and Rose in the final minute for some unknown reason.