Short-handed Bulls lose at Toronto
Needless to say, expectations were low for the Bulls on Tuesday in Toronto.
The Bulls played without Zach LaVine (knee), Otto Porter Jr. (shoulder) and Kris Dunn (back), besides the guys who were already hurt. With the short-handed lineup, the Bulls lost to the Raptors 112-103 at Scotiabank Arena.
The game itself was never really close. The Bulls trailed by 15 points at halftime and made up some ground in the final three minutes of the game.
"Obviously it's no secret we're short-handed but I was really proud of our guys for battling and competing, and we hung in there," Bulls coach Jim Boylen told reporters after the game. "We won the boards. We won the second half. Those are things we talked about at halftime. We wanted to play with pace and we wanted to drive the ball and I thought we did that."
Lauri Markkanen was the only regular starter who was available to play Tuesday. And after recording 10 points and 9 rebounds, he sat out the second half with what was officially termed an illness.
The Bulls (21-54) need to think hard about whether they want any of their starters to come back for the final seven games of the season. They've never been in the playoff race and the broken leg suffered by Portland center Jusuf Nurkic on Monday emphasized the potential danger of a serious injury that could keep a player out through the start of next season.
"Lauri had some fatigue and was feeling a little sluggish, so we just felt it was the right thing to do to keep him out for the second half," Boylen said. "He's been practicing hard and playing hard. We just felt let's just keep him out and see how he feels afterward."
Boylen was asked if he knew the chances of Markkanen playing Wednesday when the Bulls host the Trail Blazers. There was really no need to answer, since it's obvious the Bulls are going to use extreme caution.
"I don't have any clue on that," he said. "Obviously we hope he plays and if not, we'll do our best with the guys we have."
The Bulls escaped a potential injury when Brandon Sampson shook off a rough collision that sent Toronto's OG Anunoby to the locker room with 4:10 left in the game. Sampson drove toward the basket, Anunoby tried to take a charge, but got there late and both players crashed to the floor. Sampson stayed in the game and made the ensuing free throws, while Anunoby was helped to the locker room with an apparent head injury.
Wayne Selden Jr. ended up leading seven Bulls in double figures with 20 points. Shaq Harrison added 15 points and 3 steals, while Ryan Arcidiacono scored 13. Antonio Blakeney (11 points), Sampson (10), Robin Lopez (10) and Markkanen were the other Bulls in double digits.
"It's fun to see guys get a chance and see guys go out and compete," Boylen said. "I thought Brandon competed, AB and right on down the line. Brandon played well. He attacks the basket, he point-fives it. Everything's a learning moment for him. He started the second half, which I think's kind of fun for a guy.
"We're working at getting better. We're working at growing, no matter who's out there, competing, whether you're the 15th guy or the first guy, Bulls across your chest has got to mean a lot when you're out there and I thought it did tonight."
It wasn't clear if Sampson, a two-way player, who join the Windy City Bulls for their playoff game against the Westchester Knicks on Wednesday, or suit up for the Bulls against Portland.
Toronto (52-23) used its bench heavily in this game. Norman Powell led the Raptors with 20 points, followed by Serge Ibaka with 16 off the bench. All-star Kawhi Leonard played just 22 minutes.
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Scouting reportBulls vs. Portland Trail Blazers, 7 p.m. at the United Center
TV: NBCSCH • Radio: WSCR 670-AM
Outlook: The Blazers had some devastating bad luck Monday, when center Jusuf Nurkic suffered a compound fracture of his left leg during the second overtime of a win over Brooklyn. SG C.J. McCollum will be sidelined for at least another week with a knee injury, so Portland is missing two of its top three scorers. ... PG Damian Lillard has averaged 30.5 points and 12.0 assists in the four games McCollum has missed. Without Nurkic, the Blazers will be counting on newcomer Enes Kanter (10.4 ppg). Former Illinois C Meyers Leonard hasn't been playing lately, but could get a chance. ... Portland (46-27) has won seven of its last eight games and four in a row. The Bulls lost to the Blazers on the road 124-112 on Jan. 9.
Next: Toronto Raptors, 7 p.m. Saturday at the United Center
-- Mike McGraw