It seems the tank may be back with the Chicago Bulls dropping their 3rd straight game as they were defeated by the Toronto Raptors 124-115 in the UC. Despite getting 20+ points each from Lauri Markkanen, Justin Holiday, and Nikola Mirotic, the Bulls couldn’t stop the Raptors enough to get the victory.
After only scoring 21 in the first quarter, Toronto - 3rd in the league in points per game - rattled off quarter point totals of 35, 34, and 34. The Raptors got 16 points each from Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka, with their bench impressively getting 25 points from Delon Wright and 13 points from Fred VanVleet. However, there was no surprise in who led the Raptors offensively: DeMar DeRozan.
DeRozan balled out against Chicago, dropping 35 points and 6 assists while also going 5 of 8 from three. It’s been a huge year for the shooting guard as he has became a more rounded offensive player. His PPG average is down from last year but his eFG% is up and he’s shooting a career high 34.9% from three on the most attempts in his career.
(1:14 - 1:27) After Kris Dunn missed a three-pointer, DeRozan grabs the rebound and begins to dribble up the court, plotting how he can dissect the Chicago defense. Justin Holiday, who is the main defender, is in a good position as DeRozan crosses the United Center sign. Holiday does a good job not creating any driving lanes for DeRozan to take advantage of. But as soon as DeRozan reaches the “R” part of the UC logo, Holiday is screened on his right by Raptors center Jonas Valanciunas. Robin Lopez, who is guarding Valanciunas, is sagging back and choosing not to meet DeRozan off the pick. There are multiple reasons why this is the case. One of them is an obvious one: Lopez doesn’t have the quickness or the foot speed to stay in front of DeRozan for too long. If Lopez were to step up, there’s a very likely scenario in which DeRozan blows right past him. Then with nobody behind Lopez to defend the rim, it’s a highlight reel dunk for DeRozan. Another reason could be that teams are testing DeRozan’s three-point improvement. For much of his career, DeRozan has been very inconsistent from deep and it will take some teams a while to adjust to his new found accuracy. So with Lopez backing off after the pick, there is an ample amount of space and time for DeRozan to rise up and knock down a three-pointer.
DeRozan also displayed his exceptional mid-range game against the Bulls, this time working against Markkenen on a switch.
(1:28-1:35) Again we see DeRozan taking the ball up the court and being guarded by Holiday. Just like last time, Holiday is screened on his right hand side but this time it’s a little different as it’s the duo of Jakob Poetl and Serge Ibaka setting a double screen for DeRozan as he goes left. This ultimately leaves Markkanen, who was guarding Ibaka, to get switched onto DeRozan with Holiday coming back to help. Markkanen does a good job of initially staying with DeRozan but then he’s hit with a crossover and goes the wrong way. With Markkanen going to his left and DeRozan the opposite way, it’s a very opportunistic moment for the guard. He’s able to comfortably shoot a mid range jumper despite the contest of Jerian Grant and Markkanen.
Given the firepower of Toronto’s offense, everyone knew it was going to be a tough night for Chicago, especially on their young players and slight bigs. With DeMar DeRozan at the height of his powers in this game, he exploited these advantages and was the main man in an effort which defeated the Bulls.