Technical analysis carries DeRozan, Bulls past Toronto
DeMar DeRozan found himself in a tough spot late in Wednesday's game against Toronto.
Sandwiched between Pascal Siakam and Chris Boucher, who have about 20 feet of wingspan between them, DeRozan managed to get a pass to Nikola Vucevic, who drained the open 3-pointer that clinched a 111-105 victory at the United Center.
"You ever been in a corner in a boxing ring?" DeRozan said of Toronto's long-armed double-team. "You're just trying to cover up, trying not to get hit. It felt like that. You've just got to find an opening and get up out of there the best you can and that's what I tried to do in that moment."
This was a strange game in several ways. DeRozan got two technical fouls, but wasn't ejected. Toronto's Gary Trent Jr., after scoring 32 points, was ejected with 2:02 left in the fourth quarter.
The Raptors led just once, at 103-102 with 3:11 left. Zach LaVine came right back with a driving lay-in and 3-point play, then DeRozan drew a foul on former teammate Siakam to make it a 4-point game.
On the next trip, Trent hit a jumper over Ayo Dosunmu, felt he was hit on the shooting arm and clapped several times in the direction of the referee, which generally draws a technical. So he was done for the night. Earlier in the game, Trent and Vucevic each got technicals for a brief scrum after a tie-up.
LaVine hit the technical free throw to make it a 3-point lead, then the Bulls (30-17) got three defensive stops before Vucevic's 3. The veteran center has run hot and cold from long range all season.
"I sense it every time he shoots the ball," said DeRozan, who was a college teammate of Vucevic at USC. "I don't care how many shots he miss. I don't care if he struggled the game before, the quarter before, the possession before. Every time I see him loaded up I have the utmost confidence it's going in. Can't make them all, going to miss some, but I can live and die with those shots from Vuc."
DeRozan got his technicals in the final two minutes of the third quarter. The first one was for grabbing the net as he tried to block a shot by Boucher.
Then DeRozan was whistled again for hitting the ball on the floor in disgust after he was called for an offensive foul in the backcourt. Trent appeared to fool the referee by jerking his neck back when DeRozan stuck out his forearm.
Raptors coach Nick Nurse looked like he was asking why DeRozan wasn't ejected, which is normally the case after two technicals. The grabbing the net violation wasn't deemed an unsportsmanlike foul, so DeRozan stayed in.
DeRozan led the Bulls with 29 points and added 7 assists and 7 rebounds. Vucevic produced 17 points, 15 rebounds and 8 assists. LaVine finished with 23 points, 8 rebounds and 8 assists. Javonte Green played an important role with three dunks in traffic and some key rebounds late in the game.
Toronto was playing the second leg of back-to-back games and was without Rockford native Fred VanVleet due to a knee injury. The Bulls jumped out to early leads of 14-2 an 26-12, the Raptors tied it up a few times, then the Bulls led by 17 at halftime.
Toronto made another big run by getting aggressive on defense, similar to how Oklahoma City was able to trim a 28-point Bulls' lead to 1 on Monday. Coach Billy Donovan said he thinks the more Dosunmu and Coby White see those strategies, the sooner they'll learn to contend with it.
"I think when teams are picking up like that there is no offense," Donovan said. "Just go. Attack it and go and touch the paint and generally you're going to generate a pretty good shot. I thought we did that a few times. There is no offense in those situations, you just attack."