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Second half woes plague the Chicago Bulls in loss to the Toronto Raptors

Will Gottlieb Avatar
January 31, 2024

After a solid first half of basketball that had the Chicago Bulls sitting on a ten-point lead, the team completely collapsed in the second half, which cost them a 118-107 loss to the Toronto Raptors on Tuesday night.

When things click with this Bulls team, they look good. The ball was moving in the first half. Threes were falling. They were getting steals and layups and shot 57.5 percent from the field, 42 percent from three and 90 percent at the line.

But the defense started to slide in the second half. They began giving up shots at the rim, taking the ball out of the basket and missing out on the easy offense that was keeping them afloat in the first half.

All told, the Bulls dropped a game they should have won. Here’s how it happened:

Second half offense

Despite going into halftime with a 10-point lead, the Bulls stumbled out of the gate in the third quarter, an emerging theme that has plagued them of late.

“I just don’t think we come out as aggressive in the third as we do at the start of games,” Nikola Vucevic said after the game. “At times we ease into it a little bit, especially when we have a lead. We get comfortable and teams take advantage of it.”

The Raptors won the third quarter 37-26 with a monstrous 144 offensive rating to the Bulls 104 offensive rating. This has been a problem for the Bulls over the last 10 games. They’re dead last in the NBA in third quarter net rating at -21.4.

“We can’t ease our way back in the second half of the game,” DeMar DeRozan said.”We gotta come out and build on that lead and try to ease back into the game again instead of just trying to just put the foot on the gas and play with a sense of urgency.”

If you thought the third quarter was bad, just wait until you see what happened in the fourth.

The fourth quarter, which the Bulls lost 28-18, included a stretch over the final 7:11 where the Bulls did not score a single field goal.

They shot 5-of-14 from the field, 0-of-4 on threes, and 8-of-11 at the line.

Their offensive rating during the period was 72.

The Raptors were aggressively trapping DeRozan to try to get the ball out of his hands. They succeeded, forcing him to commit two of his five turnovers in the final six minutes of the game.

“I think I had five turnovers,” DeRozan said. “I had a couple of turnovers, critical, late. AC had one. When we try to make a run back and get back on the game, but you know, every time I bought a middle floor, screen and roll, post up, they came, did a good job rotating to take the ball out of my hand. We just got to got to be more conscious and take care of the ball a little bit better.”

The Bulls have seen this kind of coverage before, not just from the Raptors. With Zach LaVine out, they needed someone else to take on some scoring burden, and better yet, they needed to play a bit more creatively without turning the ball over.

DeRozan finished with 25 points on 8-of-17 shooting, 0-of-5 threes and 9-of-12 free throws, with five assists, three steals and four blocks.

“Teams are going to do that to us, it’s not the first time [DeMar’s] seen that,” Donovan said of the Raptors aggressive trapping scheme. “But we needed to get the ball out of some of those traps and and get it moving. The one time I thought we did a really good job Alex missed the corner three, but we moved it really well against the trap and we got it out.”

“We’re capable of doing that, it’s not like we haven’t seen that before,” he continued. “I just didn’t think that we did a great job handling it tonight.”

Coby White uninvolvement

Coby White had a relatively quiet night, scoring just 13 points on 5-of-10 shooting.

Prior to the fourth quarter, he had 13 points on 5-of-8 shooting.

That’s right, White got just two shots in the entire period.

“I think Coby tries to try to take the right shots,” Donovan said post-game. “I think he was playing downhill, sometimes you get shots in games, sometimes you don’t. I mean it’s just kind of the way it is, but you want to make the right basketball play so I didn’t feel like he turned down any. I felt like they were kind of up on him in coverages and I think he tried to get downhill and generate offense for others.”

The Bulls did put White in action with DeRozan in the final few possessions and drew up one sideline out play for him, which he missed a three badly.

But all things considered, the lack of creativity in the half court offense, combined with the turnovers, made things look pretty bad.

Trade deadline countdown

“It’s critical time, critical point of the season where we need every single game,” DeRozan said. “Especially if want to close this thing out strongest possible going into the break.”

With the break, and more importantly, the trade deadline coming up, the Bulls know this is potentially their last chance to correct mistakes from earlier in the season by climbing back to the .500 mark. A milestone they will have to wait until after the deadline to accomplish, now falling to 22-26 with just three games to go before February 8.

“Obviously, we’re not in a position we want to be, so you never know,” Vucevic said of the team’s performance on the season. “But I don’t think about it too much. It’s out of our control. I like the guys we have in here. I like the team we have. We have to figure out some things but that’s more of a question for the front office.”

With the deadline in just eight days, we’ll see if the Bulls address any of their issues with roster change.

Up next: Bulls are in Charlotte for their fourth and final matchup with the Hornets on Wednesday night.

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