Okay, I suppose no defeat is that embarrassing if Derrick Rose is sitting. The Bulls simply aren't a great team without Rose and will likely lose a couple games to teams they'd normally slaughter if he were playing. On top of that, good teams drop games to bad ones all here and there regardless. Still, when the bulls fell behind for the majority of the game, it was hard to watch.
Then John Lucas happened. Again.
Now to be fair, C.J. Watson finished with just about as good a game as Lucas, only marred by four turnovers, but otherwise shot the ball well and scored nearly identically. He just did his damage in the first half while Lucas struggled. However, when Lucas entered the game for Chicago in the fourth things immediately turned around.
After Lucas knocked down a three and Ed Davis completed a three point play for Toronto, Chicago went on a 20-0 run to turn their long held deficit into a laugher with Lucas scoring 13 in the quarter. Watching the game, it felt like Toronto was always "this" far from collapsing and in the fourth they finally did.
Luol Deng started to have a good game
Deng was hot out of the gates early in a scoring battle with DeMarr DeRozan. It looked like we might see a monster game from Luol, but he fell off quickly. After knocking down a shot with 7:15 left in the second quarter for his 13th and 14th points, Deng remained scoreless until intentionally fouled at the end of the game [why the hell was Toronto intentionally fouling down by 8-10 points? Really? You wanted to drag it out that bad?]
After his hot start it was a flurry of missed shots, and Deng finished the game shooting sub 30% from the field again. Deng is shooting just 38.7% from the field (113/292) though 42.6% (44/104) from the three point line since the injury. His two point percentage is a paltry 36.7%.
(yes this number was calculated incorrectly on realgm if you are a realgm reader)
That's really bad.
It is nice that he's generally made up the horrific low two point percentage by knocking down a good clip of his threes, but it shows that his finishing around the rim has really taken a hit. Deng isn't able to drive the ball as much and so many more of his two point shots are the long mid range, off the dribble variety [otherwise known as the worst shot in basketball].
What can Chicago really do though? They need Deng to score, because they don't have many scorers, but he's simply not able to get the Bulls more of the inside looks that he was able to earlier and his overall efficiency is suffering tremendously for it.
Kyle Korver delivers the hot sauce
The big run came from the bench mob plus Luol Deng, and while everyone contributed defensively, on offense the Bulls were carried almost exclusively by Lucas and Korver. After Lucas knocked down a bunch of shots for Chicago, the Raptors tried to force the ball out of his hands, and it went to Korver who scored 10 points during the 20 nothing run including a tough two point fade away over the outstretched arms of the Raptor defense.
Korver's value always comes from deriving offense, but in this stretch he wasn't simply taking open threes that someone else gave him, but it was the run off the screen and generate a shot Kyle that did the Raptors in.
Ronnie Brewer kept the Bulls alive in the third
It may not be as big a highlight, because the Bulls were falling apart, but Brewer helped keep Chicago alive in a third quarter where they couldn't buy a bucket. He even sliced through the lane to create a shot off the dribble through a couple of defenders on play.
It's a step outside of his normal comfort zone for Chicago, but they desperately needed someone to step up on offense, and Brewer delivered six points in the third.
Bulls rolling towards a top two finish
The rest of the regular season is really about whether Chicago can hold of Miami right? With 17 games left to play, the Bulls have a magic number of 10 on the second seed (and division) outright [9 for a tie pending the tie breakers]. With 17 games left, the Pacers or Magic could win out, and Chicago would still likely stay ahead of them.
It's also great to see Chicago prove itself over a tough stretch [not that this game counts, but in general]. Prior to the recent run of games, the Bulls had lost many of their games against top notch competition. However, wins over the top three seeds outside of themselves while Derrick Rose rests show that Chicago isn't merely feasting on weak competition.
The Bulls have put their stamp on the NBA so far this season, and the only question that remains is whether they can continue to do so in the playoffs.