10 key Bulls observations as DeMar DeRozan, Alex Caruso play heroes in wild OT victory over Raptors

At the United Center on Friday night, the Chicago Bulls defeated the Toronto Raptors 104-103 in overtime to tie their record at one game.

DeMar DeRozan stated, “We had lulls but we never gave in.” “We persevered, battled to the very end, and gave ourselves a chance to prevail. We carried out that action.”

Ten things to note following the win:

—Alex Caurso and DeRozan performed as heroes. With 2.3 seconds remaining in transition, Caruso made several defensive plays and set up Zach LaVine for a nice feed that allowed DeRozan to sink the game-winning 3-pointer. At the other end, Caruso blocked Pascal Siakam, and DeRozan scored 18 of his 33 points in the fourth quarter.

“I give Zach a lot of credit. He kept his head in the game and made an unbelievable pass to Alex. He could’ve tried to force his way in there and gone to the rim,” coach Billy Donovan said. “For him to trust Alex with the pass was good.”

Through two games, everything has been a slog offensively, especially in the halfcourt. The Bulls struggled to even complete passes on several of their possessions. When bad shooting is added, the outcome is unappealing. The Bulls shot 37.4 percent overall, including 20 percent from three-point range, and scored six points in the first 7:12 of the fourth quarter.

DeRozan brought the Bulls back to life on his own. DeRozan repeatedly went to the free-throw line using his pump fake magic, but he missed the third of three free throws with 12.7 seconds remaining in regulation to tie the game. He also missed a putback in traffic during the ensuing scramble. With 0.7 seconds remaining in regulation, after Caruso took a Siakam charge on an inbounds, DeRozan made the game-winning free throw.


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“Win by any means. That’s my mindset every fourth quarter,” DeRozan said. “Be aggressive. Don’t matter what happened the previous three quarters. It’s go time.”

—The Raptors extended a run that started in the second quarter to 23-0 by starting the second half with an 11-0 lead. The sluggish starts in the first half of the match, along with the one on Wednesday, highlight how poorly the starting lineup fits together right away. Even though it would be shocking if Donovan made a shift this early in the season on Saturday night in Detroit, this is a plot point to keep an eye on.

—LaVine had his second difficult night in a row. LaVine shot 3-for-14 and finished the game minus-23 after going 4-for-16 in the first game. During the second-half warm-ups, LaVine also took the court while sporting a lower back pad and wrap.

“It just got a little stiff,” LaVine said. “Playing against Toronto, you have to guard different positions. You’re guarding the 4 and the 5 with the 3 and the 4. So it got a little tight. But we were able to figure it out.”

When asked if he would play in the team’s back-to-back game against the Pistons on Saturday, LaVine replied that they would evaluate the situation and make a decision that day.

If LaVine decides to play, he must address his shooting issues before the season begins.

“We’re all just trying to find a rhythm, me included obviously,” LaVine stated. “Throughout the season, you work on a lot of different things. Your search is for items that will enable you to enter the game. Simply put, I haven’t discovered that in the first few games. Nor have I wanted to push anything.

“Obviously, though, I need to start making things click. This performance is not what I should be doing.”

—Williams exited at the 8 minute, 29 second mark of the third quarter and didn’t play again. Williams played just 13 minutes and shot 1-for-5, adding three rebounds and two steals. His backup, Torrey Craig, played 23 minutes.

“It’s probably a hard game for him from the perspective we got off to such a slow start that I felt like I ended to mix it up a little bit. And the same thing happened at the start of the third,” Donovan said. “I don’t think that was at all all on Patrick. It was just that group wasn’t great to start.”

—Wearing a Dennis Rodman T-shirt, Craig showed up at the United Center and proceeded to impersonate Worm by generating extra possessions and going after the offensive glass. Last season, the Bulls ranked 28th in terms of offensive rebounds and 30th in terms of second-chance points. With 24 second-chance points in the end, Craig pulled down three offensive rebounds for the Bulls.


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—In the first half alone, Nikola Vucevic equaled his eight field goal attempts from the previous game. On 4-for-15 shooting, he finished with 11 points and 12 rebounds. He was undoubtedly the star of the season opener on Wednesday after he and Donovan got into a heated altercation in the third quarter regarding Vucevic’s dissatisfaction with the offense. However, it was more about offensive stagnation than it was about shots or even touches.

Even so, the Bulls tried hard to take advantage of Vucevic’s mismatches more frequently, especially with Jakob Poeltl playing just 10 minutes in the first half and picking up three fouls.

—Regarding that difficult beginning, the Bulls made two turnovers and missed their first five shots, including two 3-pointers from Coby White and Williams. Even worse, they stalled in the halfcourt after forcing two turnovers by the Raptors and were unable to move quickly into transition. Not even three minutes after tipoff, with the Raptors leading 8-0, did Donovan blow his first timeout. During a drive after the timeout, DeRozan scored. However, it did not halt the bleeding. Donovan went to Craig and Caruso early, staggering LaVine with the second group once more as the Raptors jumped ahead 16–4.

These moves, coupled with White drawing a charge during a powerful stretch, turned the script entirely. The Bulls had a commanding 20-0 run until an old-fashioned Anunoby dunk just missed the first-quarter buzzer. Caruso was charged twice. With offensive rebounds or tips, Craig generated three additional possessions, one of which resulted in a 3-pointer of his own. During the run, White added four more points and set up Vucevic for a conventional three-point play.

DeRozan promised a more valiant effort. It was not a surprise. After a dismal beginning, the Bulls tightened up on defense and put on a commanding 20-0 run to turn things around.

DeRozan isn’t one to utter meaningless platitudes or empty threats. He predicted a stronger effort from the Bulls after observing their disciplined reaction to Wednesday’s devastating season-opening defeat. Particularly from the defense’s perspective, effort wasn’t the issue. Put to death was. The Bulls made 17 mistakes.

—After winning challenges, both coaches were given another one. Because White scored on the play, the Bulls were able to have White’s charge on Poeltl reversed into a three-point play in Donovan’s case. Darko Rajakovic, the coach of the Raptors, attempted his second challenge but failed. Under the new rules, using the second challenge alone required a timeout. In the fourth quarter, Donovan continued the trend, winning his second challenge, preventing the Raptors from going to the free-throw line, and assisting LaVine in avoiding a fourth foul.

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