In a fourth quarter that saw the Chicago Bulls get outscored 34-26 in an eventual 104-98 loss to the Toronto Raptors, one possession got the Raptors bench particularly fired up was when forward OG Anunoby drove past Bulls star and former Raptors teammate DeMar DeRozan for an emphatic dunk.
“It felt good,” a stoic Anunoby said via the Raptors’ YouTube channel after helping secure a critical victory for his team and a gut-wrenching loss for the Bulls.
Anunoby finished with 17 points adding eight rebounds, two assists, and one steal.
But he did his best work on the other end guarding DeRozan including on the possession just before his dunk. Anunoby stood firm as DeRozan drove the lane looking for a bucket, contact, or both.
DeRozan – whose layup to cut the lead down to four (88-84) was undone by a Gary Trent Jr. three on the following possessions – initially got the benefit of the whistle and was set to go to the free throw line but Raptors head coach Nick Nurse challenged the play resulting in an overturned call to a charge on DeRozan.
Anunoby held DeRozan to just three points, per NBA.com matchup data, all of which he had to earn at the free-throw line. The Bulls’ usual fourth-quarter maven could only muster just 13 points on 5-of-11 shooting and just five free-throw attempts.
The lack of production from DeRozan is a sign of the effort the Raptors put into slowing him.
“Try to limit his touches – limit his catches, make his catches harder – and then force him into difficult shots. We did a pretty good job today. But…he’s a great player,” Anunoby said. “[Familiarity] definitely helps. But still, in the game, you don’t know what they’re going to call and he makes tough shots all the time. He’s a great player.”
Anunoby and DeRozan were teammates during the former’s rookie season in 2018.
DeRozan was traded to the San Antonio Spurs that offseason for Kawhi Leonard who led Toronto to its first title in franchise history.
Asked about not biting on DeRozan’s infamous pump fake which he uses quite often to get to the line, Anunoby joked “everyone knows about” it. But, in three games against his former team, DeRozan has averaged 14 points albeit on a shockingly efficient 62.7% true shooting with 3.7 assists, and 3.7 boards with 5.6 attempts at the charity stripe (compared to 7.3 for the season).
The Bulls lost the regular season series 2-1.
Bulls Lost on the Boards
Anunoby’s eight rebounds helped see to it that Chicago was outrebounded 47-35 including allowing 19 offensive rebounds while the Bulls could grab just six of their own with none coming from DeRozan who also had five personal fouls.
Naturally, that led to a 15-4 disparity in second-chance points.
They had a chance late in the game but DeRozan missed the first of two free throws that would have cut the deficit to two points with 17 seconds to go.
The Bulls rank sixth in defensive rebounding but could not overcome a fourth-ranked offensive boarding crew in Toronto. Perhaps the bigger issue for Chicago, however, is that they rank just 28th in offensive rebounding themselves also checking in 28th in second-chance points on the season, though they do check in third in second-chance points allowed.
This was just a matchup that did not favor them and has not favored them all season – interestingly enough, both teams averaged 43.3 rebounds in those meetings.
Toronto also got a big boost in the middle for this game.
Former Bulls Target Dampens Playoff Outlook
The Bulls were linked to former Spurs big man Jakob Poeltl as recently as this past offseason before signing Andre Drummond to back up starter Nikola Vucevic. Poeltl found his way back to Toronto – who had traded him along with DeRozan to San Antonio – at the deadline.
He certainly made an impact on this game.
The loss puts the Bulls 1.5 games back of the Washington Wizards – who beat the Atlanta Hawks 119-116 – for the final spot in the Play-In Tournament.