The Bulls had zero excuses Sunday night against a decimated Raptors roster playing the second game of a back-to-back after getting crushed in Charlotte the night before. With a new-look starting lineup in place, Chicago took care of business and cruised to a 118-95 victory. Patrick Williams scored a career-high 23 points and led nine Bulls in double figures, which is something that hadn’t happened in 50 years. The home team also racked up 35 assists despite shooting just 12-of-44 on 3-pointers and dominated the glass to the tune of a 60-37 advantage.
The new lineup with Thaddeus Young and Tomas Satoransky didn’t get off to a roaring start, with the Bulls trailing 17-16 when Otto Porter Jr. subbed in for Young seven minutes into the game. But the bench immediately made an impact, with Wendell Carter Jr. looking especially aggressive in his first stint off the pine. Carter scored seven quick points in the first quarter and wound up finishing with a 12-point, 11-rebound double-double in 19 minutes. He did still rack up four fouls and missed a few more bunnies, but he at least brought the right mentality instead of sulking.
The Bulls soon opened up an 11-point advantage in the second quarter before the Raptors cut their deficit to two toward the end of the first half. Chicago answered with a 9-2 run to go up 58-49 heading into the break, and there was never really a challenge in the second half. The third quarter was a bit of a slog with a lot of whistles, and the Bulls’ poor 3-point shooting plus a lot of Norman Powell kept the weary Raptors within shouting distance. Williams finished the quarter with a surge, though, and his corner triple gave Chicago a 12-point lead heading into the final frame.
The game was then essentially iced when Denzel Valentine got hot and hit three consecutive triples, including a hilarious heat check that was then followed up by him going absolutely bonkers as he made his way off the court. Just pure, uncut Denzel Valentine:
The Raptors never got closer than 11 points the rest of the way, and Kyle Lowry got ejected toward the end of the game. It’s hard to blame him considering what the Raptors have been going through of late and all season, with no Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet and OG Anunoby, among others, once again as their losing streak extended to five games. Toronto shot just 38.2% from the field and 12-of-45 on 3-pointers.
It’s hard to take too much from a game against an opponent like this, but it was great to see Williams shine with his 23 points (9-of-14 shooting), six rebounds and four assists. Williams’ cutting was a highlight of the night, and playing with Young more should help the youngster. Four of Young’s seven assists went to Williams.
Satoransky also had seven assists in his return to the starting lineup, and he provided a first-half scoring boost with all 10 of his points coming in that opening half. Coby White, the man Sato replaced, didn’t have the best shooting night with 13 points on 5-of-12 from the field and 2-of-8 from 3, but he was a team-best plus-24 off the bench. The Bulls’ bench absolutely mauled the shorthanded Raptors, with 47 points to just 29 for Toronto’s reserves. Even Otto Porter Jr. finally got back in on the action, going for 11 points, seven rebounds and three assists after a sluggish start to the game. Porter scored nine of his 11 points on 4-of-5 shooting in the third quarter and did go 1-of-8 in the other three quarters, but it was at least a step in the right direction after the ugliness of the past two games.
It was a notably quiet night for Zach LaVine, who extended his double-digit scoring streak toward the very end of the game. He ended with a pedestrian 15 points on 4-of-10 shooting and 1-of-5 from 3-land while racking up six rebounds, three assists and three turnovers. It looked like he might have hurt his finger/hand at some point, but it ultimately didn’t matter and the Bulls didn’t need him to be great to win this game. Chicago did outscore Toronto by 16 in LaVine’s 34 minutes.
The Bulls’ other starter, Lauri Markkanen, also had a quiet night with 13 points on 4-of-12 shooting and 2-of-9 from 3, but he did have this nice sequence at least:
After the game, Billy Donovan gave his rationale for the lineup change:
Billy Donovan thought it was his responsibility to help the #Bulls somehow himself right now, and without much practice time, he didn't want to waste any more time.— Cody Westerlund (@CodyWesterlund) March 15, 2021
Billy Donovan: "This is good for their development ... We're trying to win."— Cody Westerlund (@CodyWesterlund) March 15, 2021
Donovan doesn't believe this affects their development so long as White and Carter are still in the rotation. https://t.co/NkwN0q7Zmo
Donovan added that nothing is “set in stone,” so we’ll see how things go moving forward. The starters were actually a minus-7 in nearly 11 minutes together, but everything else fell into place nicely, albeit against a brutal opponent. The Bulls are now 17-20 on the season, which is tied with the Pacers for the ninth-best record in the Eastern Conference. The Thunder are up next on Tuesday as Chicago continues a five-game home stand.