Bulls continue to plummet with loss to Raptors
John Sokolowski - USA Today Sports

Bulls continue to plummet with loss to Raptors

by - Senior Writer -

TORONTO - While the Chicago Bulls (5-12) may not be the worst team in the league record-wise, you can make the case that they are playing the worst of anyone in the league right now. This team needs to address the bigger question now whether Billy Donovan lost the locker room and whether it is time to finally admit that you need to blow this up and start over.

Looking to secure their first win of the In Season Tournament, the Bulls traveled north of the border to Scotiabank Place to take on the Toronto Raptors (8-8). This team has had the Bulls number the past few seasons and despite the team going through a significant makeover the past 12 months, they remain competitive in the Eastern Conference.

After leading the Bulls for practically the entire first game when these met earlier in the season, the Bulls found a way to battle back late before notching a 104-103 OT win. Hoping to avoid that scenario for a second time, the Raptors jumped in front early and often and continued to have their way with this team 121-108.

If anyone can figure out why this team gets off to such horrible starts, please let Arturas Karnisovas and company know because I am sure they would hire you to fix it. This team is by far the worst team in the NBA when it comes to starting games, as they have the worst first-quarter point difference in the league by a wide margin.

Even with Zach Lavine putting together arguably his best game of the season, the Bulls offense continues to be nonexistent in the first 12 minutes as the Raptors raced out to a 36-22 lead and never looked back. Not only did they not look back, but that first quarter was all they would need to win this game as the Bulls played them even the rest of the way and even outscored them in the fourth quarter. By then, it was too little too late as this team had to figure things out in the first quarter, or these were the results the team would have the rest of the way.

After missing Wednesday with a sore foot, Lavine was back in the lineup Friday, and it was evident from the start that his foot was feeling just fine. Lavine was the go-to guy for the Bulls and the leading scorer in the game, as he connected on 16-23 shots for 36 points. Those have been the games the Bulls and their fans have been waiting for from him, but when the rest of the team struggles to score, that type of effort goes to waste.

Even with four players landing in double figures, Lavine was the only one to crack 20 points, and that is never a good thing. Demar DeRozan took a back seat and had to work for his 19 points to support Lavine. Chicago also got 14 points from Coby White as he continues to play solid basketball at the PG position, but that was the brunt of the production for the Bulls starting five with Nikola Vucevic and Alex Caruso coming away with 16 combined points.

For Caruso, it was the first time in five games that he was held under 10 points, ending the longest streak of his career. Another player you could make the case for having his best game of the season was Patrick Williams and his 12 points off the bench. Despite his issues in the starting lineup, Williams is at least playing more consistently with the second unit, and that has been the case his entire career. He single-handedly outscored the rest of the Bulls bench, which had 11 more points, but it was nice to see the rookie Julian Phillips get in on the scoresheet.

Toronto may not have a superstar or the most talented roster in the league, but this team is filled with players who work hard and know how to play together. That is something the Bulls would kill for right now, and it has been one of the main reasons why this team has had so much success in the past decade. Even with first-year head coach Darko Rajakovic replacing Nick Nurse, it has yet to matter as this team knows what they do well and uses that to their advantage.

One player who has continued to take his game to the next level this season is OG Anunoby. Often the third option for the Raptors last season, Anunoby is starting to become the team's go-to option as he led the way for Toronto with 26 points. He wasn't alone in having a big game as all five of the Raptors starters cracked double figures with an additional player, Gary Trent Jr, continuing to torment the Bulls off the bench to finish with 16 points for the second unit.

Backing Anunoby in the starting lineup was Pascal Siakam and his 18 points, with Dennis Schroeder adding 17. However, the other two starters made the biggest difference as they had great offensive nights and played a massive role defensively to come away with double-doubles.

Jakob Poeltl added 15 points while pulling down 10 rebounds, with Scottie Barnes adding 13 points and grabbing 10 rebounds himself. Poeltl and Barnes were both mentioned as possible trade targets for the Bulls last season, and you have to wonder if the Bulls regret not pulling the trigger. With an 0-3 mark in the In Season Tournament, the Bulls have officially been eliminated from the next round and will have some games added to their schedule to give them 82 for the season. Chicago returns to the floor Sunday when they face off against the Brooklyn Nets.

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