Bulls fall to Raptors 124-115

The Bulls Wednesday were guilty of a bit too much individual play and as a result were unable to beat the Raps, losing 124-115 to the Toronto Raptors.

Toronto had just too much activity on offense and reacting defense, befitting a team that moved to 26-10 and second in the Eastern Conference to Boston. The Bulls fell to 13-25 with their third straight loss.

The Bulls matched scores in the fast paced game through three quarters, but Toronto reserves to start the second and fourth quarters outplayed the usually reliable Bulls second unit.

The Bulls were led by Justin Holiday with 26 points on just 10 field goal attempts. He was six of nine on threes. Lauri Markkanen had 22 points and 12 rebounds and Nikola Mirotic 20 points. Denzel Valentine had 14 points and seven rebounds, Robin Lopez had 12 points and Jerian Grant 11. Kris Dunn in foul trouble was one of six for two points and eight assists. DeMar DeRozan had 35 for Toronto. Toronto had a 54-39 edge among reserves.

The Bulls were looking to rebound from the narrow back to back losses against Washington and Portland. Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg, who was edged out by Toronto’s Dwane Casey for coach of the month honors, said that Zach LaVine would be on the upcoming road trip to Dallas and Indiana and then serious talks next week about a LaVine return. The Bulls got another good start from Lopez, working a pick and roll and pick and pop with Dunn as the Bulls took a 17-9 lead. Dunn then chased down a loose ball and got it to Markkanen for a three as Markkanen had 11 first quarter points in a 31-21 Bulls lead on 54 percent shooting. But the Bulls bench gave up the lead in the first four minutes of the second quarter in an unusually ineffective stretch. The Bulls opened the quarter with five straight misses, eschewing ball movement and team play for isolation. The predictable result was a 9-2 Raptors start to the second quarter with Toronto reserves Fred Van Fleet and Delon Wright dominating. Wright matched his season high by midway through the second quarter with 15 points and several offensive rebounds over multiple Bulls players to give Toronto a 49-47 lead with 3:10 left in the half. The Bulls recovered their offensive equilibrium, getting more shots after ball movement and threes from Holiday and Mirotic to squeeze ahead 59-56 at halftime. Holiday had 10 points on just three shots with a four-point play. The Toronto bench had a 29-19 edge at halftime.

The Bulls got back ahead in the third quarter with Holiday fouled on a three-point attempt again and some active play from Valentine. When Markkanen directed players to get himself a screen and a three, the Bulls took an 80-71 lead. But with Dunn drawing a fourth foul and going to the bench, the offense staggered a bit and the Raptors sped back behind the driving play of DeRozan. Toronto took an 85-82 lead, but Holiday continued his sharp shooting with a three for a 90-90 tie going into the fourth quarter. It would be yet another fourth quarter match for the game. But again the Bulls reserves faltered with too many difficult shots while the Raptors were more patient with their passing and a 97-92 lead three minutes into the fourth quarter. The Raptors second team continued to extend that with sharper ball movement and shooting as they kicked out ahead 106-94 with 6:39 left in the game, a 16-2 run after the Bulls opened the fourth with a pair of free throws. The Bulls had one more swipe at it with Lopez scoring four straight. But Toronto came back with a pair of DeRozan scores to put the Bulls too far behind at 113-98 with 4:33 left.