Bulls bounce back to beat Raptors after adjustments, Zach LaVine outburst

The Chicago Bulls knew they had to adjust after aggressive defensive schemes and offensive tenacity led the Raptors to a 113-104 victory in Sunday’s opener of Monday’s back-to-back conference foes.

And that’s exactly what they did in Monday’s 111-97 home victory. Although DeMar DeRozan’s scoring impact was muted, Zach LaVine’s first 30-point game of the season and contributions up and down the board led the way.

Here are 10 observations:

1. You couldn’t have scripted a worse start for the Bulls, especially considering how important it was to counter the Raptors’ aggressive defensive schemes after Sunday night. In the game’s first 2 minutes, 46 seconds, the Bulls shot 1-for-4, coughed up three turnovers and committed four fouls as Toronto jumped out to an 8-2 run, eventually leading by as many as nine in the opening frame and the sign bonus entered 7:51.

2. The Raptors didn’t let up on their tenacious hold on DeRozan, doubling him on the first possession of the game and on nearly every touch after that. He attempted just one shot and dished out three assists in 10 minutes of the first quarter and didn’t score his first points until an and-one layup through multiple defenders at the 2:43 mark of the second quarter.

With nine points on 2-for-6 shooting on the night, DeRozan set a new low for field goal attempts in a single game in his Bulls tenure. But he also had seven assists and six rebounds, and his presence alone freed up countless opportunities for his teammates.

“Tonight was all about his greatness as a player. Because it was total gave himself up for the team” head coach Billy Donovan said of DeRozan after the game. “He was reading the floor, the way he was guarded and making the right basketball plays.”

3. The difference for the Bulls in this one was that others stepped up. In the first quarter, LaVine (nine points), Goran Dragić (eight) and Javonte Green (seven) combined for 24 points as the Bulls pulled ahead 30-27 entering the second. Green, because of his omnipresent energy, and Dragic, because of his quick decision-making, entered earlier than their typical rotation periods for Patrick Williams and Ayo Dosunmu — who struggled especially, missing three threes and committing a turnover in his first stint – in great results.

4. Derrick Jones Jr. added five rushing points and an and-one layup and a rushing dunk to open the second quarter and the Bulls’ bench was rolling, even playing without Andre Drummond for the sixth straight game. By halftime, the Bulls bench had a 25-16 advantage and finished the game 35-28 in that division. Jones led the way with 12 points, while Dragic added nine and Green eight.

5. The aforementioned DeRozan and-one put the Bulls ahead by 13 points with less than three minutes to play in the first half. The Raptors, in turn, responded with a 10-2 run to make it a five-point game at the break, threatening to come back. But the Bulls regained a double-digit lead with a 17-8 run to start the third quarter and never looked back, leading by as many as 21 before eventually winning by 14.

6. Twenty-two fumbles aside — and they were indeed a problem — the Bulls were more decisive in their decision-making and passing on the back end of double teams than they were on Sunday. Especially DeRozan’s traps, but also when the Raptors put extra attention on defense on LaVine and Nikola Vučević in the second half.

Here’s a poignant example from the start of the third quarter:

In total, the Bulls finished the game with 30 assists on 42 field goals made. Not only that, but every Bull who played actual minutes in the rotation dished out at least two assists, and they put six players in double figures in the scoring column.

7. LaVine, playing the second leg of a back-to-back after sitting first for knee management purposes, picked up the scoring deadlock for DeRozan, and in an encouraging way given his apparent lack of comfort and his outburst on drives early in the season .

In the first quarter, he cut for a dunk and a layup, then buried a stepback layup and a 3-pointer. And early in the fourth, he got hot in a rush to score nine points in 1 minute, 46 seconds, finishing a one-and-one and burying two 3-pointers to lead a run that extended the Bulls’ lead beyond 20.

For the game, LaVine finished with 30 points and five assists, shooting 11-for-20 from the field and 4-for-8 from 3-point range. It was his first 30-point game of the season.

“When he takes those catch-and-shoot opportunities as much as he can, that’s great for us,” Donovan said. “The ball found him and he made some plays as well. I thought he had a really effective night offensively.”

8. After an 11-rebound, 11-assist performance on Sunday in which he posted a +15 in 32 minutes, Alex Caruso was once again all over the place on defense in this one, blowing up screen moves, stripping the Raptors of the ball on drives and sticking his nose into the free scramble with contested fights. His final stats were a Caruso high: four points, six assists, six rebounds, two steals and two blocks each and a plus-minus of 18 in 28 minutes.

9. Caruso’s urgency seeped up and down the Bulls’ depth chart as they combined to stifle the Raptors on the glass one night after Toronto pulled down 23 offensive rebounds and scored 27 second-chance points. On Monday, the Bulls significantly outshot the Raptors and held them to five offensive boards and four second-chance points.

It helped the hosts even the possession battle (80 field goal attempts to Toronto’s 85) after being outscored 103-88 on Sunday.

“I always say there are certain parts of the game where the scouting report is out the window,” Donovan said. “50-50 balls, rebound, put back in transition. There are a lot of things besides intelligence that go into the game that you have to earn. And I thought we did a better job today than we did last night.”

10. As mentioned, Williams (at 9:14) and Dosunmu (at 7:51) were pulled earlier than usual from their first-quarter stints amid the Bulls’ choppy start. Although Caruso and Dragic — deservedly — later closed the race on them, both recovered later to put together solid outings.

Dosunmu made two of his next four 3-pointers to finish with 12 points. With 10 points, Williams eclipsed double figures for the eighth time in his last 10 games and had six rebounds (three offensive) and cleared five boards in his fifth straight contest. That included a strong comeback late in the fourth to help snuff out the Raptors’ final comeback attempt.

Next up for the Bulls: Home to the New Orleans Pelicans on Wednesday.

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