The Toronto Raptors were good. The Chicago Bulls were just one possession better.
On Wednesday night, Luol Deng scored with 3.3 seconds remaining in overtime to help the Bulls outlast Raptors.
More important than the outcome of this singular game, though, is the second straight aggressive performance from Kyle Lowry on the offensive end of the floor. After spraining his ankle on Tuesday night against Brooklyn, the Raptors weren’t sure if he would return to the game. Not only did he return, he scored 19 of his 21 points in the fourth quarter. The Raptors were competitive against a better Nets team.
The same thing happened on Wednesday night.
Despite the sore ankle sprained only one day before, Lowry put together a solid performance in 34 minutes off of the bench. He scored 26 points, grabbed five rebounds, dished seven assists and had two steals. Most important, he was in attack mode all night, looking like the Lowry that started the season playing at an all-star level before going down with the ankle sprain that sidelined him for six games.
While Lowry was reminding Toronto fans why they fell in love with him so swiftly when the season started, Alan Anderson was rediscovering his shooting touch, breaking out of the slump he’d been in to score a career-high 27 points. After the game he’d say that a career-high is nice, but doesn’t matter when the team doesn’t get the win. This is true, but against a grind-it-out Bulls team, the Raptors competing for the full 48 minutes — and then five minutes of overtime — is something to take note of.
Despite big nights from Anderson, Lowry and DeMar DeRozan (18 points), the Bulls did just enough to get the victory. Getting 36 points and 12 rebounds from Carlos Boozer, including 25 in the first half, they also received 16 points and 14 rebounds from Joakim Noah. In addition to hitting the game-winning shot, Luol Deng added 19 points for Chicago.
While there were questionable calls both ways, Dwane Casey was not happy with a non-shooting foul that was called against Joakim Noah on Amir Johnson with one second remaining in overtime.
After the game, Casey opened his post-game media availability by pointing out that the team missed nine free throws and then moved on to that possession, saying, “I commended our guys on the way they competed. For one, every guy that stepped on the floor, they competed. It’s a shame, I hope the league looks at that last play of the game where Amir Johnson gathers, the shot going up. I don’t know who he was passing to, I just I hope they watch. I hope they watch. That’s all I’m going to say about it. It’s a very questionable margin of play at the end of the game.”
This isn’t the first time the Raptors have had the league review plays or feel that they’ve been given the shorter end of the stick in late-game situations.
Alan Anderson effect
While Anderson has been a pleasant surprise for the Raptors this season, he has been in a shooting slump over the past four games. After spending the morning in the dentist chair to repair a broken front tooth courtesy of a Brook Lopez flailing arm during Toronto’s Tuesday night loss in Brooklyn, Anderson found his shooting touch. He finished by tying a career-high 27 points on Wednesday night, hitting 10 of his 18 shots, including four of nine from beyond the arc.
The boost Quincy Acy has been providing off of the bench
With Jonas Valanciunas and Andrea Bargnani both sidelined due to injuries, there’s a definite drop off up front when starters Ed Davis and Amir Johnson go out of the game. It’s hard to blame Aaron Gray or Quincy Acy, though. Each guy is prepared and giving their best when their name is called.
Acy, especially, has provided a nice boost for the team recently. While he was a perfect 4-for-4 from the floor against the Bulls in nearly 15 minutes of play, the rookie also grabbed six rebounds and had two assists. Perhaps even more noteworthy than what showed up on the stats sheet, were the four charges he stood in for. Johnson noticed the work his rookie has been putting in, interrupting Alan Anderson’s scrum to point out the charges that Acy was responsible for picking up.
The Raptors have taken a step back defensively this season. Dwane Casey has often referred to the fact that his team is a mixture of players who have been with him before and new guys who are still learning the schemes as well as how to play with everyone else on the team.
The Bulls are a team that has kept mostly the same core over the past few seasons, a luxury that can occur when a franchise is successful. While they’re a very different team without Derrick Rose, they are a team that knows their coach, his system and how to play with each other.
Alan Anderson spoke about the challenges of plying against a solid defensive team like the Bulls: “They have all five guys talking,” Anderson said. “Not just one person. They have all five guys talking and it’s almost like they’re on a rope with each other. If one guy goes to the right, the other guy gets pulled. It’s almost like there’s a string. They’re really good on defence and they’re talking makes it a lot easier.”
Lowry’s offensive push
The storyline less than one week ago was that Lowry needed to be more aggressive and play his own game rather than trying to be like anyone else. Lowry certainly has squashed that story. Playing his game over the past two games, Lowry showed why the Raptors worked so hard to get him in Toronto.
He is, as Anderson would like to say, a bull on the court. He is strong and aggressive, fearless while going to the hoop or sneaking into the paint to grab an offensive rebound among the trees. He’ll take the big shot and he wants to be taking it. If he continues to play like this, it’ll be hard to keep him off of the floor. It is also likely to make any decision regarding the future of the point guard possession a little easier to come to.