Whenever a team can get a win despite a seemingly off-night by one of their top players, they will certainly take it.
That is where the Chicago Bulls were in their 111-97 victory over the Toronto Raptors.
In a bit of payback, the Bulls atoned for letting one get away from them a day before across the border. That loss saw DeMar DeRozan “held” to an efficient 20 points (7-of-9 FG) but he also had five turnovers and was hounded by the Raptors’ swarming defense.
“It’s a respect thing,” DeRozan said of consistently seeing multiple Raptors defenders, “obviously. It’s a guy at me every time I cross halfcourt. With that, you just try to be a high-IQ basketball player from that standpoint. And I’m all for it. I don’t get frustrated. It’s nothing but patience for me. All I care about at the end of the day is winning. And if that calls for me to be a playmaker throughout the night, I’m all for it.” (h/t Darnell Mayberry/The Athletic)
Raptors Respect DeRozan
This time, he had the added benefit of Zach LaVine, back in the lineup after a one-game absence for maintenance. And, when the Raptors attempted to send the double, the duo made them pay time and again. But the approach from his former team still spoke to how the Raptors view the five-time All-Star.
DeRozan said it’s fun and the results were a lot of open shots for the Bulls. He took advantage notching seven assists, two below his season-high.
As head coach Billy Donovan pointed out, many of them found LaVine who had 30 points.
“He’s like a megastar,” Raptors head coach Nick Nurse (an assistant during DeRozan’s tenure) said. “What we had to pull out last night on him to try to stop him; I mean, we stopped him and he still had 20…We threw an all-out assault at him last night in every way we could think of — and he still got 20.”
DeRozan entered the night averaging 25.3 points but finished below double-digits for the second time in four games with the first coming against the Charlotte Hornets.
The Bulls won both contests.
“That’s what it’s about,” DeRozan said. “We’ve got to be coming together, jelling, as a team…It’s not about me being the leading scorer every night (or) Zach. We’ve got to be able to play the right way so teams don’t know how to defend us. And if you try to take one of us away out of me and Zach, other guys could get it going as well and it makes our job a lot easier.”
Bulls Executing Their Plan
To DeRozan’s point, this was what Donovan envisioned when he and the coaching staff installed what some players called a new offense. Donovan said they were simply tweaks to their approach but they have had a significant impact.
It centers around both ball and player movement to create chaos for the defense and opportunities for the offense.
“My goal would be can we have five to seven guys at the end of 82 games that are in double figures scoring?” Donovan said. “You’ve got to have…an entire team where everybody is to a certain degree a threat.”
The Bulls had six players score at least 10 points in this one and two more with nine points including DeRozan. On a night when DeRozan was the least efficient of any Bulls player to take a shot in the game, he also had the highest plus-minus.
Donovan said the performance was “all about his greatness as a player”.
DeRozan Drops Another Gem
This win got the Bulls back to .500 on the year at 6-6. While some fans may have wanted or even expected better, there were plenty of prognostications that they would stumble out of the gates and be out of contention rather quickly.
Instead, they are one game behind the Raptors for fifth with a schedule that’s about to lighten up considerably.
But DeRozan isn’t looking back at what could have been.
“We could [be better]” DeRozan said, but if I played the right numbers a week ago, I would’ve won the lottery. We can’t dwell on it. It is what it is — .500.” (h/t Paul Sullivan/Chicago Tribune)
They can get back to a winning record with a victory over the New Orleans Pelicans who are also .500 at 5-5 and will visit the United Center on November 9. New Orleans comes in having lost four of its last six games.