In their fourth back-to-back of the young 2022-23 NBA season, your Chicago Bulls looked livelier than they had in a while, turning in one of their more complete contests through three quarters. All-Star Chicago shooting guard Zach LaVine returned to help Chicago down the Toronto Raptors on the second night of a home-and-home back-to-back, notching a 111-97 win. A late-game Toronto rally turned what should have been a blowout into a somewhat chippier affair in the fourth quarter, but Chicago did enough to hold on late against a pressing Raptors defense.
Zach LaVine looked excellent in his return to action, leading the Bulls with a team-high 30 points on 11-of-20 shooting from the floor (4-of-8 from three-point land). The rest of the Bulls starters generally seemed to lack his fresh legs.
With the win, the Bulls returned to a .500 record of 6-6. The Raptors, meanwhile, now drop to a 6-5 record.
After Toronto hounded DeMar DeRozan with an aggressive trap-heavy attack for the majority of his possessions last night during the Raptors’ 113-104 victory, it was a massive relief for Bulls fans to get another elite finisher back on the hardwood.
The Raptors started out hot early in the first quarter, but Chicago caught up and eventually passed them up, leading 30-27 heading into the second frame. It looked for a moment like the Bulls were going to run away with the game in the second quarter, at one point going up by as many as 13 points before they took their foot off the gas late in the half. The Raptors closed the quarter on a 10-2 run.
At least Chi Slamma Jamma was in full effect. Derrick Jones Jr. had a couple monster slams:
Patrick Williams continued his run of actually looking like he cared about the game tonight (he finished with 10 points on 4-of-8 shooting, six rebounds, two assists and a block in 24:47), and got into the fun with a dunk of his own off an Ayo Dosunmu dime near the end of the second quarter:
Ayo & PWill connected for a slam pic.twitter.com/BSGn3pYDS1— Bulls Talk (@NBCSBulls) November 8, 2022
Chicago really broke away in the third period, thanks in large part to the efficient scoring efforts of Nikola Vucevic (9 points on 4-of-5 shooting), Ayo Dosunmu and Zach LaVine (who combined for 10 points on 4-of-6 shooting), solid paint play late from Derrick Jones Jr. and Javonte Green, plus excellent scrambling defense courtesy of Green and Alex Caruso, Chicago headed into the game’s final frame up 16, 86-70.
Check Green getting ex-Bull Otto Porter Jr. out of his rhythm here during the quarter:
Javonte was super annoying on defense here pic.twitter.com/CxL6xcOyAP— Bulls Talk (@NBCSBulls) November 8, 2022
Toronto was +24 in points in the paint last night, but the Bulls made a clear concerted effort to head inside, outscoring the Raptors 56-50 in that metric tonight.
The Bulls led by as many as 21 points early in the fourth quarter by beating up some Raptors reserves + starting shooting guard OG Anunoby, with the game looking close to over — until Nick Nurse brought back Fred VanVleet, Gary Trent, Jr., Scottie Barnes, and Christian Koloko to join Anunoby. This new lineup sparked a 12-4 run, cutting the lead to 12.
What had been a potential blowout/rest opportunity on the second night of a back-to-back became a chippier contest than one would have hoped, but Chicago hung on to secure the double-digit victory.
The Raptors occasionally seemed to forge their personnel, as in this moment when they crowded Caruso in the paint but left Zach widely unattended from behind the arc:
Beyond Zach’s elite night, the results were a bit mixed for the Bulls’ other two priciest players. DeMar DeRozan, still the victim of persistent double-teams, scored in single digits for the second time already this season, finishing with nine points on just 2-of-6 field attempts, plus six rebounds and six assists.
Nikola Vucevic, however, had a solid evening, posting his fourth straight double-double, 15 points (on 7-of-14 shooting) and 13 rebounds, plus four assists. He didn’t just settle for jumpers, getting inside frequently.
Chicago’s four rotation bench players — Goran Dragic, Caruso, Green and DJJ — all turned in stellar games, pushing the pace and scoring efficiently (Caruso had just four points, but damn it he only took two shots, so it counts).
Though Chicago and Toronto matched either in terms of three-point output (both went 9-of-28 from deep), the Bulls shot better from the floor overall, connecting on 52.5% of their field goal attempts (significantly better than Toronto’s 42.4%) and 81.8% of their free throw tries (the Raptors made a still-decent 72.7% of theirs). The Bulls also obliterated the Raptors on the glass, grabbing 57 boards to outpace Toronto’s 40.