This was a game the Chicago Bulls absolutely needed to win, especially with Patrick Williams’ return bringing some good vibes to the United Center. The Bulls’ recent losing streak caused a drop in the standings and even opened the possibility of them slipping into a play-in spot. Against a surging Toronto Raptors chasing the Bulls in the standings, the home team was a bit out of sorts at times over the first two and a half quarters. The 3-point shooting was off and they struggled to control the paint against the big Raptors lineups.
Then, midway through the third quarter, Chicago turned on the jets and put in a strong performance to take control of the game. The Bulls outscored the Raptors 59-44 in the second half en route to a 113-99 win. The Bulls now own the tiebreaker over Toronto and kept their spot in fifth place in the Eastern Conference, while also clinching a winning season and at least a spot in the play-in tournament.
It was LaVine and DeMar DeRozan who led the way for the offense, which shot 48.9 percent from the field and 39.3 percent from deep. Both had 26 points and did so efficiently with the duo each shooting 50 percent or better. LaVine struggled a bit in the first half but caught fire in the third quarter. He scored 16 points in the frame and sparked a crucial 15-0 Chicago run, which gave them a lead they never let go of. He also added six assists and six boards as well.
DeRozan got it going in the fourth quarter as usual to put the finishing touches on the Bulls’ best game in forever. Nikola Vucevic had a double-double of 19 points and 13 rebounds, including a whopping seven on the offensive glass. He really struggled in the first half, looking slow and out of sorts on both ends, but he picked it up in a major way in the second half.
Javonte Green remained in the starting lineup and had seven points, including a clutch three-point play with 6:26 to go. He added four rebounds and two assists. Alex Caruso was inserted into the staring lineup and was the distributor on the night, adding six assists to go along with his seven points and terrific defense.
Coming off the bench like he did earlier in the season, rookie Ayo Dosunmu had a strong stint in his 24 minutes. He had 11 points with six assists on 5-of-9 shooting. The change in rotation didn’t seem to affect him as his defense was still solid and he was also aggressive, hunting for his own shot when given the space. Tristan Thompson played 13 minutes off the bench, scoring four points along with four rebounds. Coby White had an off night shooting the ball, scoring just two points on 1-of-5 shooting. He still gave solid minutes, though, with his defense and playmaking as he registered four assists.
And after months recovering from a wrist injury, Williams made his return back to the court. He got a standing ovation from the fans in the United Center and looked good all things considered. He played only 19 minutes but was effective in those minutes. He was active defensively and looked like he belonged.
Like Dosunmu, Williams was aggressive at the right times when he had the ball. There weren’t many moments of hesitation from him when he had the rock, which was nice given we saw many instances in the past where he would hesitate for a second and allow the defense to recover. He went 3-of-8 from the field for seven points and two rebounds. Williams even splashed a 3-pointer in the corner, and those shots will be much-needed for a Bulls offense that doesn’t take many of those shots to begin with.
The best play of the night came when he deflected a pass on the perimeter, went on the fast break, and scored a layup despite having a defender all over him:
Pat is taking COOKIES @NBCSChicago | @patricklw4 pic.twitter.com/sojykcjOgw— Chicago Bulls (@chicagobulls) March 22, 2022
It’s these type of flash plays that give Williams a very high ceiling moving forward. It was a nice return back, and the Bulls will need him as he gets eased back into the rotation.
Toronto was led by the 22 of Pascal Siakam along with 19 from both Fred VanVleet and Chris Boucher. Scottie Barnes had just eight points but added five assists and six rebounds. The Raptors were ice cold from deep, shooting just 18.8 percent from distance. Chicago’s defense also made things hard on Toronto, forcing 14 turnovers en route to 29 points. We saw this earlier in the season with a healthy Bulls squad. When their defense is playing well, they can force turnovers and get on the break for easy buckets. On the flip side, Chicago did a good job taking career of the ball with just six turnovers, leading to five points for Toronto.
This was a huge win for Chicago in the standings and emotionally. They were in a sort of spiral before this game as the West Coast road trip was a disaster. At home against a team that is also fighting for playoff contention, the Bulls woke up in the third quarter and took care of business. They got the lead and didn’t relinquish it for a second.
Chicago has to recover quickly as this was the first game of a back-to-back. Next up is a trip to Milwaukee to play the Bucks.