Shorter Bulls lose battle of offensive boards in loss to Toronto

The Bulls' small lineup has provided a spark, but it caused some problems Tuesday in Toronto.

The Raptors grabbed 19 offensive rebounds and held off the Bulls 104-98 at Scotiabank Arena. Besides winning the offensive boards 19-6, Toronto led in second-chance points 15-4.

Obviously, this was an important game in terms of play-in position. Ninth-place Toronto is now 2½ games ahead of the 11th-place Bulls, who also lost a game in the standings to 10th-place Washington on Tuesday. The top 10 teams in each conference qualify for the play-in tournament.

Another problem for the Bulls had nothing to do with height. The Bulls fumbled away 20 turnovers, many times ruining good scoring chances.

"We had an opportunity to have a good offensive night," Bulls coach Billy Donovan told reporters after the game. "It's hard to have a good offensive night when you turn it over 19 times, because we shot over 50% from the field and we shot over 40% from 3. You have more possessions shooting that percentage, your numbers are going to look better."

Center Nikola Vucevic led the Bulls with 23 points, but had just 5 rebounds, none in the fourth quarter. Zach LaVine scored 17 and DeMar DeRozan had 13.

"I told the guys after the game, I felt like DeMar and Zach, they need to shoot the ball a little bit more for us to beat a team we need to beat," point guard Patrick Beverley said after the game. "The goal is to get to the playoffs and compete, not just go there and be a wash rag for another team.

"We had 15 turnovers in the first unit. I was the leading rebounder in the first unit, that's unacceptable. The first unit has to be better and we will. It was a good test for us and we get to respond back tomorrow (against Detroit)."

Since adding Beverley last week, Donovan turned to a smaller starting lineup, using 6-5 Alex Caruso as the power forward while sending 6-8 Patrick Williams to the bench.

Trailing by 4 with under two minutes left, that Bulls lineup gave up a pair of offensive rebounds during a long Toronto possession. After the Bulls finally got a stop, the Raptors dared Caruso to shoot a 10-foot jumper inside the foul line. Instead, he tried to throw a pass into traffic instead and had it stolen.

Donovan was asked after the game if he'll look at the starting and finishing lineups, with an eye on maybe adding more height.

"I think we're going to have to be able to do that at some point, maybe look at the matchup piece of it," Donovan said. "They had size everywhere and with the way we were trying to play defense tonight, we knew we would have to bring help to certain matchups."

Midway through the fourth quarter, the teams were trading 1-point leads until a turnover by LaVine led to a cutting dunk and 3-point play by Scottie Barnes. After a blocked shot, Pascal Siakam got a dunk, then the Bulls lost track of shooters and let Gary Trent Jr. knock down an open 3 to boost the lead to seven.

With 4:48 left, Raptors guard Fred VanVleet lost the ball out of bounds and the referees gave the ball back to Toronto. Beverley signaled toward the bench to challenge the call, but Donovan chose not to and Barnes hit a 3 right off the inbound pass. Television replays showed Beverley was right - the Bulls likely would have won a challenge.

About a minute earlier, DeRozan had a 3-point play opportunity challenged and reversed to a charge instead, wiping 3 points off the board.

"I'm not worried, I'm excited," Beverley said. "I'm very anxious to see the locker room after a loss to see what I'm dealing with."

Twitter: @McGrawDHSports

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Chicago Bulls forward DeMar DeRozan (11) drives past Toronto Raptors forward Scottie Barnes during the first half of an NBA basketball game Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2023, in Toronto. Associated Press
Chicago Bulls guard Coby White (0) tries to get past Toronto Raptors guard Gary Trent Jr. (33) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2023, in Toronto. Associated Press
Chicago Bulls guard Ayo Dosunmu (12) drives as Toronto Raptors center Jakob Poeltl, right, defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2023, in Toronto. Associated Press
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