Chicago Bulls' second unit gets taken to cleaners in loss to Toronto
The Chicago Bulls' second unit, led by Nikola Mirotic and Bobby Portis, has been one of the team's best weapons all season. The group's reliability rating, however, took a hit Wednesday night.
The Toronto Raptors dominated the start of the second and fourth quarters, and the Bulls couldn't keep up as they lost their third straight game. Unlike the last two, this one didn't go down to the wire, as the Raptors won 124-115 at the United Center.
The Bulls led 31-21 after the first quarter, but with mostly reserves on the court, Toronto outscored the Bulls by a combined 21-4 in the opening four minutes of the second and fourth quarters.
"We didn't bring our same juice," Portis said. "They kind of got the best of us. That's something we're not accustomed to. We were kind of stagnant on offense. At the same time, I felt like our defense wasn't there tonight. Normally, we kind of get the crowd into it. We didn't do that tonight. We'll be back Friday, long season ahead."
Justin Holiday led the Bulls with 26 points, Lauri Markkanen had 22 points and 12 rebounds, while Mirotic finished with 20 points.
DeMar DeRozan led Toronto with 35 points, but a couple of reserve guards played key roles. Delon Wright produced two career highs with 25 points and 13 rebounds, while Rockford native Fred Van Vleet added 13 points in 17 minutes.
"Our second unit I didn't think shared the ball the way they have been," Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. "They've been excellent, playing with really good chemistry, but we didn't have that with that group tonight.
"We were hunting shots and when they went on a run, we've got to move it and get good solid possessions. We were coming out and jacking up contested shots with zero or one passes. You can't have that. That second unit's been pretty darn good for us. Tonight, we struggled with it."
Still, this one didn't get away from the Bulls (13-25) until the fourth quarter. They led 80-71 with 4:18 left in the third after back-to-back 3-pointers by Denzel Valentine and Markkanen.
The score was tied at 90-90 at the end of three, and the Bulls tallied the first points of the fourth quarter on a pair of Jerian Grant free throws. But the Wright-Van Vleet lineup fleeced the Bulls with a 16-2 run. When Kyle Lowry's 3-pointer put Toronto ahead 106-94 with 6:39 left, the Bulls couldn't get back into it.
"I thought we played a great first quarter. I thought we came out of the gate with great focus, great energy, defensive intensity," Hoiberg said. "We were getting out in transition; we were sharing the ball. Then that all went away at the start of the second. We gave up 103 after giving up a 21-point first quarter. When we weren't scoring, we just went straight to isolation basketball, and that's not us."
DeRozan always has been known as a midrange shooter who rarely made 3-pointers. But he stretched his range this season and hit 5 3-pointers Wednesday for the second straight game. DeRozan also scored 18 points in the third quarter.
Holiday hit 6 of 9 3-pointers for the Bulls and had a chance to become the first player in franchise history to post two 4-point plays in the same game. He did it in the first quarter but missed the free throw with a chance to do it again with 49.6 seconds remaining.
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