The Bulls, coming off of a 6 game road trip in which they finished 2-4, were finally back at home Monday evening at the United Center against the 32-23 Toronto Raptors. The Raptors, who are in the midst of a 2 game losing streak, haven’t fared well against the Bulls in recent games. In fact, the Raptors have lost the previous 10 matchups against Chicago. The Bulls looked to extend that streak in this one and come out with a huge home win as the All Star break approaches.
The Bulls came out firing right away in this game behind the play of Jimmy Butler who missed the previous game at Minnesota due to nagging pain from his right heel injury. Jimmy, who will be starting in the All Star game for the Eastern Conference this weekend, looked determined to win this game. He was the focal point of the offense in this game, specifically with his passing as he finished with 12 assists. The Bulls controlled the play throughout the first half on both ends of the floor. They were up by as much at 21 points in the first half, and ended the half up 58-39. The Raptors would attempt a comeback late in the fourth quarter cutting the Bulls lead to 6 points, but in the end it wasn’t enough as the Bulls eased to a 105-94 victory winning their 11th straight over their Canadian foes.
This impressive win over a top 5 team in the Eastern Conference was an all-around full team effort. Doug McDermott added a substantial 20 points and 5 board in 32 minutes off of the bench. Doug has shown flashes of the dominant player he can be in the NBA this season. With lethal range and surprising athleticism, Doug has the skills necessary to compete on a high level every night. Though his defense may not be top notch, he has the ability to stay in front of his defender and rebound the ball. His main issue is his lack of consistency on a nightly basis. There will be games where he lights up the opposing defense, the best example was when he dropped 31 points against Memphis in early January this season. But, too many times he’ll have games where he scores 2 points and becomes too much of a liability on defense to stay in the game. It seems the Bulls have had enough of his inconsistent play with the recent trade rumors coming out from sources around the league. The Bulls have seen what Doug can do when he’s on his game, and I personally think he will be a valuable player in this league–and I think the Bulls do too. Why else would they have traded up to the 11th pick to grab him in the first round of the 2014 draft? He is still young, but the team needs to see him carry on his consistent play on a nightly basis. It’ll be interesting to see what his future with the team will be as the trade deadline approaches.
And then there’s Rajon Rondo. Rondo was solid in this game with 12 points including shooting 2/2 from three and 4 assists off of the bench. Rondo has been relatively quiet since his Instagram comments about fellow teammates Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade a couple weeks ago. After his subsequent benching he has started to get consistent minutes off of the bench for the team. In the last 10 games he has averaged 6.9 points and 5.9 assists. Even more than his statistics, his impact on some of the younger players on the team has been very crucial. When the Bulls signed him over the summer, just as many Bulls fans were, I was unsure how to feel. On one hand I was glad to get a veteran with championship experience, but on the other hand his consistent issues within the locker room made me questions the acquisition. I think when the playoffs come around (assuming the Bulls hold on to their 7th seed) his real value will show for this team with his veteran leadership and experience. I hope the Bulls rally off of this win, and can continue to play drama-free and figure out a way to win games and compete at the end of the season.
The Bulls play again on Thursday at home against the Boston Celtics, who recently have shown strong interest in acquiring All Star Jimmy Butler. It’ll be an interesting game to watch to see how Butler and the Celtics interact during the game. The Bulls, now 27-29 need to start stringing together wins to put themselves in a competitive spot as the playoffs slowly approach.