Your Chicago Bulls squared off against the Toronto Raptors in a back-to-back home-and-home matchup on Sunday (a loss in Toronto) and Monday (a win at the UC). Here’s what we learned from those battles.
Toronto’s versatile, lengthy defense clearly read the scouting report on the Bulls. They did what they had to do to get the ball out of the hands of Chicago’s best player and No. 1 scoring option, DeMar DeRozan, early and often in both games, with active trapping double-teams almost as soon as DDR got over the half-court line (the Philadelphia 76ers were also particularly good at doing this).
DeRozan scored a decent 20 points on 7-of-9 shooting from the floor and 6-of-6 shooting from the charity stripe in the first game, but was limited to just nine points (the second time already this season he’s been held under 10) on 2-of-6 shooting from the field and 5-of-6 from the charity stripe. He compensated for that poor showing Monday somewhat with an active seven dimes.
Thanks to DeMarvelous being a creative passer and the Bulls’ smart spacing, DDR often managed to help keep plays alive even when he was all but taken out of them:
How to beat the double: Get middle, get to the nail, whip the pass to the open man.— Mark K (@mkhoops) November 8, 2022
Simple stuff. pic.twitter.com/GMdXlRuO5K
Sometimes teammates had to think on their feet to help continue possessions. With DeMar being trapped aggressively near one of his preferred midrange jumper locations, Alex Caruso cuts through the paint to near the baseline to bail him out, then dishes to Nikola Vucevic for a nice turnaround jumper near the bucket.
Caruso is great:— Mark K (@mkhoops) November 8, 2022
• The cut to help DeRozan on the double
• Saving a near turnover and keeping possession
• Great read, pass into a posting Vooch pic.twitter.com/p6gXu8X85t
Chicago has managed to stay alive in a lot of these recent contests through their pesky defense, and the Toronto “series” gave us a chance to see how the club adjusted to handling one team’s biggest strength over the course of two games.
The constant energy of Javonte Green and Alex Caruso is always particularly exciting to behold, although Javonte’s major height disadvantage may make him tough to play against, say, the Bucks in the first round of the playoffs. You know, just picking a team at random for no reason.
Check out the way he clogs up passing lanes here and then, even after he lands behind ex-Bull Otto Porter Jr., he doesn't give up on the play, instead sliding back in to hurt his focus as he releases his jumper. There’s a reason Stacey King likes to say there are “five Javontes out there:”
Javonte was super annoying on defense here pic.twitter.com/CxL6xcOyAP— Bulls Talk (@NBCSBulls) November 8, 2022
Green loves to seek out vulnerabilities in passing lanes, and happily picked off this sloppy OG Anunoby pass off a defensive rebound, turning defense into offense with a dish to an aware Zach LaVine, who has backed up for the corner trey:
ZACH IN MAX MODE pic.twitter.com/xE36VEZxzo— Bulls Talk (@NBCSBulls) November 8, 2022
AC Fresh you already know and love as a relentless pest, too. Like Javonte, he never gives up on a play. Check out the way he reads the floor here:
Don't care what his shooting percentages are, Caruso creates offense with his defense.— Mark K (@mkhoops) November 8, 2022
There's a reason why his on/off numbers are so strong. pic.twitter.com/dFl2e9eBb8
Caruso and Dosunmu also comprise two of the NBA’s top three deflectors per 36 minutes. Caruso leads the NBA in deflections with 49, just a hair above Raptors DPOY candidate OG Anunoby, who along with Fred VanVleet was the most dangerous Toronto player over the course of these two games.
Let’s talk about Zach. He’s been somewhat erratic this year as he continues to work his way back into All-Star shape following arthroscopic surgery on that pesky left knee in May. He had quite a night against the Brooklyn Nets last week, almost singlehandedly saving Chicago with a masterful 20-point fourth quarter performance, but he hadn’t looked particularly comfortable getting inside, and was settling for a lot of jumpers. He’s one of the game’s great shooters, so that wasn’t a huge issue against a terrible defensive club, but it wouldn’t necessarily sustain against a team with the length and astute rotations of the Raptors, with or without Pascal Siakam (who was absent for both these games).
Luckily, LaVine turned in a more well-rounded performance during the Bulls’ second game against the Raptors on Monday, having rested the knee for the Sunday loss. Having another elite shotmaker probably made the difference between defeat and victory for the Bulls, as LaVine made Toronto pay for its traps on DDR.
LaVine still made plenty of triples, much needed in the continued absence of Lonzo Ball and the erratic success of Nikola Vucevic, but he looked comfortable driving both baseline and down the middle, as well as his typically sick stepback jumpers. Note how he frequently benefits from the DeRozan traps:
Zach showed off the full repertoire tonight.— Chicago Bulls (@chicagobulls) November 8, 2022
30 pts | 11-20 FG | 4-8 3FG | 5 ast pic.twitter.com/aHCfP3jXOO
Is Paw actually something now?
Finally, let’s talk about Patrick Williams, AKME’s favorite high-upside Chicago Bull. The 6’7” No. 4 pick out of FSU looked tentative and terrified of having to actually, you know, shoot the ball during his brutal first four games this season. But ever since he got cooking against the Pacers (well, for him at least), Paw has been more willing to shoot and rebound at a competitive level.
In the first Raptors game, Williams took a season-high 16 field goal attempts for a shorthanded Bulls team (missing LaVine, Coby White, Andre Drummond, and of course Lonzo Ball). He only made five of those looks, but three were much-needed triples. He also pulled down seven rebounds and had two blocked shots. He scored in double digits again the next night, on a more moderate 4-of-8 shooting. During that Monday win, Williams also grabbed another six rebounds and had another stuff.
Check out his aggressive two-way play here in the Monday game, as he and Vucevic hustle inside for a defensive rebound, Vucevic secures it, and Williams scores on a subsequent fast break:
Vooch said no. Paw said yes. pic.twitter.com/uk3SubeCXi— Bulls Talk (@NBCSBulls) November 8, 2022
Does this all mean that Paw is a real live NBA player at least? Hard to tell for sure, but suddenly he really does seem to be making good on that all that redraft promise as a legit rotation piece. For the year, he’s averaging nine points on solid .447/.343/.923 shooting splits, along with 3.7 rebounds, 0.8 steals, 0.8 blocks and 0.8 assists.