It was the Toronto Raptors last game of 2018, and the Raptors recent lack of success has been mostly because of injuries. A very tough portion of the schedule has hit the Raptors, and they didn’t seem very ready after starting the season with a 20-4 record (best in franchise history through 24 games). In the past 8 games, Nick nurse has used 5 different starting lineups.
In Toronto’s matchup against the Bulls on Sunday, the Raptors were without power forward Serge Ibaka, centre Jonas Valanciunas, and all star point guard Kyle Lowry. Those three players are normally placed in the starting lineup, however without access to those contributors, Raptors head coach Nick Nurse needed to heavily rely on his bench players to try and get the home win.
Coming into the game, Toronto was carrying a 26-11 record, as the Raptors dropped their spot as first seed in the eastern conference to the Milwaukee Bucks, who have been trailing Toronto in the standings throughout the season. On the other hand, the rebuilding Chicago Bulls were coming into the game with a 10-26 record, and were thirteenth in the eastern conference.
It was a close game for the entire four quarters, with neither team seeming to exceed a 6 point lead. It was constantly going back and forth, with 9 lead changes occurring over the course of the game.
The Raptors actually shot a worse percentage from the field than the Bulls: Chicago shot 41.3% from the field, while Toronto shot 37.0%. The reason why the Raptors managed to squeeze out a narrow victory while shooting a dismal 37% was because many of those shot were 3-pointers. The extra point from all of the Raptors 3-pointers were adding up, and making up for some of the missed 2-pointers.
Another reason for the Raptors victory was because of their huge advantages on the glass: The two teams’ defensive rebounding numbers were quite similar, however the offensive rebound numbers were well in the Raptors favour. Toronto demolished Chicago on the offensive boards, 17-7, and that was without centre Jonas Valanciunas. At fifteenth, the Raptors are in the middle of the pack when it comes to offensive rebounding, but the Bulls are dead last in that category, averaging just over 7 per game. The extra rebounds gave the Raptors more chances to score, even when they were making a low percentage of them.
Lastly, the Raptors cut down on turnovers, with just 11 of them, which gave the Bulls less chances to score in transition. On the other hand, the Bulls coughed up the ball 16 times, leading to 24 fast break points for the Raptors. Without that many turnovers, the Bulls may have gotten the victory.
In the end, the Raptors shot 12 more shots than the Bulls: 92-80. The Bulls made 33 field goals while the Raptors made 34. Since a lot of those made shots were 3-pointers, it gave Toronto the narrow victory.
It was definitely the right time for the Raptors to face a struggling Bulls team, as it was a break from all the tough opponents that they’ve faced in the past 2 weeks. However, it’s important for the Raptors to get healthy soon, because in January Toronto will have to face more tough teams, such as the Spurs, their conference rivals: the Milwaukee Bucks, Boston, Memphis, Indiana, Houston, and Dallas. Although a tough schedule awaits them the Raptors need to focus and take things game by game, while trying to remain healthy.
With the win, the Toronto Raptors are now holding a record of 27-11, good for second place in the eastern conference behind the 25-10 Milwaukee Bucks.