Bulls can't conserve energy in OT loss at Toronto

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Toronto Raptors guard Fred VanVleet (23) takes off up court after stealing the ball from Chicago Bulls forward DeMar DeRozan (11) during the second half on Thursday in Toronto. . The Bulls put up a good fight against a taller Toronto team, but ended up on the short end of a 127-120 overtime loss.

    Toronto Raptors guard Fred VanVleet (23) takes off up court after stealing the ball from Chicago Bulls forward DeMar DeRozan (11) during the second half on Thursday in Toronto. . The Bulls put up a good fight against a taller Toronto team, but ended up on the short end of a 127-120 overtime loss. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 2/3/2022 10:13 PM

What a way to start the busiest stretch of the season.

The Bulls fought hard in a nearly-empty arena, went to overtime for the first time all season, but fell short with a 127-120 loss in Toronto on Thursday.

 

This one began a stretch of four games in five nights and seven in 10. It was a game rescheduled from December when the Raptors had too many players in health and safety protocols.

Toronto went ahead on a Scottie Barnes post-up with 1:44 left in OT. The Bulls had three chances to tie, but former Raptor DeMar DeRozan missed a jumper, then the Bulls turned it over twice and Gary Trent Jr. canned an open 3-pointer for the clincher and Toronto added 2 late free throws.

Zach LaVine was listed as questionable during the day with mid-back spasms.

After scoring 15 points in 42 minutes, LaVine seemed uncomfortable as he spoke to reporters via Zoom.

"Yeah, it hurts," LaVine said. "That's what happens when you play a 42-minute game with back spasms."

The Bulls play again Friday at Indiana and all the Bulls figure to be a little weary. DeRozan led the way with 45 minutes played, while Ayo Dosunmu logged 42 and Nikola Vucevic 39.

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"We're going to talk about it," LaVine said. "Anytime on the court I can spend, if it's not scoring, I thought I could help the team win tonight. It just was a tough loss. We'll see how I feel in the morning.

"I played the last two games with back spasms, just trying to help us win. I got hit really hard and my back started spasming."

Toronto (27-23) usually gives the Bulls trouble with its size. The Raptors finished with a 22-10 edge in offensive rebounds. The Bulls (32-19) turned it over 17 times against the aggressive defense, but also piled up 30 assists.

"Where we got in trouble is when we didn't have the floor spaced correctly," coach Billy Donovan said. "When we had the floor spaced correctly, we did a lot of good things."

It was an uphill climb for the Bulls through most of the fourth quarter before DeRozan hit a jumper to tie it with 47.8 seconds left. On the next possession, Toronto's Fred VanVleet, under pressure from Dosunmu, dribbled the ball off his knee and out of bounds.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The officials first called it Bulls ball, but then huddled up and somehow came to the conclusion it was Toronto's possession. That forced Donovan to use a challenge, which was successful since it was an obvious call.

With Toronto trying to trap, the Bulls worked the ball around until Dosunmu threw a cross-court pass to Javonte Green. The pass was high, so Green tried to drop it off to LaVine, except LaVine was looking at the rim because he thought Green was going to shoot it.

The ball bounced off LaVine's shoulder, Vucevic picked it up and hit a 4-footer just before the shot clock expired with 8.6 seconds remaining. Toronto tied it, though, when rookie Scottie Barnes tipped in a VanVleet miss with 0.7 on the clock.

Vucevic led the Bulls with 30 points and 18 rebounds. DeRozan finished with 28 points and 7 assists. Toronto's Pascal Siakam seemed to have an all-star snub type of night, with 25 points, 13 rebounds and 7 assists.

Trent Jr. came into the contest having scored 30 points in five straight games, tying the franchise record set by DeRozan, but finished with 16 in this one.

In late December, the Ontario government limited attendance to 1,000 people, which made Scotiabank Arena seem very empty, although rapper Drake was in his usual courtside seat.

Twitter: @McGrawDHSports

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