(Photo courtesy of the Chicago Bulls’ Twitter)
Game 37: Chicago Bulls (19-18) defeat Toronto Raptors (24-12), 123-118
Jan. 7, 2017
United Center – Chicago
Coming into Saturday’s game, the Bulls had won nine-straight games against the Raptors. And with a sloppy first quarter, the Bulls winning streak seemed like it was potentially in jeopardy. Despite Chicago’s play, it led 29-28 at the end of the first quarter. But it would be the last time the Bulls led until the fourth quarter.
In the second and third quarters, the Raptors showed why they’re the second-best team in the East, outscoring the Bulls 58-45. Chicago was down by as many as 19 points, but it managed to cut the deficit down to 12 points heading into the final period.
For over a minute in the fourth quarter, the Bulls and Raptors were both scoreless, as the score sat at 96-83 in favor of Toronto. But Nikola Mirotic broke the drought with a 3-pointer, and with that bucket the Bulls’ deficit was down to just 10.
Extending their winning streak over the Raptors to 10 games didn’t seem so bleak anymore.
Jimmy Butler made a free throw, and Cristiano Felicio scored three points the old fashion way: making a layup, and one. Dwyane Wade assisted Butler on a made 3-pointer, and then Butler really went off. He then two pairs of free throws and a 15-foot jumper to tie the game up at 99.
Wade made a layup, and McDermott and Mirotic each scored from downtown to get the Bulls to 107. Unfortunately for them, the Raptors found their offense again, too, and forced overtime.
Overtime was essentially decided by a free throw contest, as both teams combined for 20 free throw attempts in the five-minute period.
The turning point was when DeMarre Carroll fouled McDermott on a left corner three attempt; McDermott made all three free throw attempts and even followed those with a two-handed slam. The Bulls maintained the lead from there and solidified it when Butler buried a long right-wing stepback jumper with 17 seconds left, putting Chicago up 121-116.
Player of the Game
Saturday’s game was yet another Jimmy Butler show, as he overwhelmingly led the Bulls with 42 points on 10-for-25 from the field and 4-of-8 on 3-pointers. His 20 free throw attempts were a game high, and Butler only missed two of them. He also added 10 rebounds for a double-double as well as five assists and three steals.
Nikola Mirotic came off the bench to post a near double-double of 12 points and nine assists. He was 4-for-10 from the field and 3-of-8 from downtown and split a pair of free throws. Mirotic also added two assists, a steal and a block. His plus-19 was a team high.
The Bulls may not have dominated the entire game, but they did just that in the rebounding battle. Chicago grabbed 19 more rebounds than Toronto did. And considering the fact the Bulls were down almost 20 at one point in the game, their rebounding helped them get much-needed field goal attempts. In fact, in the end, the Bulls had 12 more field goal attempts than their opponents.
One way the Raptors caused the Bulls problems was through their defense. Toronto posted 11 steals, getting twice as many as its opponents.
Chicago’s second unit played a large role in making its victory a reality. The Bulls outscored the Raptors’ bench 42-23, led by Doug McDermott and Nikola Mirotic’s 17 and 12 points, respectively.
Denzel Valentine sat out with an ankle injury he sustained Jan. 2 in the Bulls’ win over the Charlotte Hornets.
The Bulls host Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder on Monday at 7 p.m. central.
Ashley is the owner/editor of The Bulls Charge. Follow her on Twitter at @wijangco12.