Here are 10 takeaways from the Toronto Raptors’ 129-102 win over the Chicago Bulls.
One — Easy: These games happen all the time. The Raptors play at half speed and are reasonably close at the half, before blowing an inferior opponent completely out of the water. The Bulls hit 11 threes and hung tight, but the Raptors took it to a level they couldn’t match. On one of the first possessions of the second half, the Raptors created three deflections on the same possession — Kyle Lowry stopping the fast break, then Serge Ibaka blocked a hook shot, then Fred VanVleet tipped the inbound — and the Bulls broke under that pressure. Toronto nearly doubled up on the Bulls, outscoring them 74-39 in the second half.
Two — Rising: Terence Davis’ response to being snubbed for the Rising Stars Game was to set a career-high in scoring with 31 points on six threes on 12-of-15 shooting. Davis started hot by hitting back-to-back threes, and only continued to build confidence from there. He eagerly trailed VanVleet’s drive for a cutting layup. Davis took the ball the length of the floor for a layup through traffic. He used his strength to jar one of the Bulls’ bigs to create an angle on a layup. By the fourth quarter, he was hitting pull-up threes and coming around screens for catch-and-shoots like a shooting guard. The whole package was on display for Davis, who is one of the best stories on a team full of them.
Three — Chemistry: Once it was clear that Davis had it going, his teammates did everything possible to support him. VanVleet passed out of a layup to find Davis spotting up in the corner for three, and recorded three assists to his rookie. Nick Nurse also came to Davis’ defense by issuing a coach’s challenge on a drive to the hoop that was initially ruled as a charge in favor of Thaddeus Young. It was a good challenge just on the basis that replays showed Young sliding, and that it was a three-point swing with Young also picking up his sixth foul. But the timing was also conspicuous given that the Raptors were up 19 midway through the fourth quarter. Davis was also mobbed by his teammates when he checked out, and got the Gatorade cup treatment for his post-game interview.
Four — Unstoppable: Young picked up most of his fouls trying — and failing — to guard Pascal Siakam, who didn’t need to see the floor after putting up 17 points, nine rebounds, and five assists through the first three quarter. Young played Siakam well and kept him from getting to the rim, but Siakam nailed three increasingly impressive turnaround jumpers against Young that were simply unguardable. If he ever became consistent on that shot — which is a big ask given the balance and delicacy required — then the Raptors would have a clear-cut superstar in Siakam.
Five — Respect: Young threw a fit after Siakam got the call on a borderline foul the third quarter, and was promptly hit with a technical for complaining. Siakam is averaging 7.8 free-throw attempts per 36 minutes since being named to the All-Star Game, as compared to 4.6 per 36 minutes in the 33 games before. Surely, some of that is a reflection of the quality of competition, but it’s also not just a coincidence. The best part of being recognized is the respect that comes with it.
Six — Nasty: This crossover leading to a cross-court dime was nice, but VanVleet turning Tomas Satoransky’s ankles into a pair of slinkys before draining the pull-up three was just badass.
Seven — Promising: Maybe it’s the mask? Or maybe it was just that the Bulls aren’t very good. Having said that, Pat McCaw had his best game since breaking his nose. His aggression needs to be at this level consistently, where there’s no hesitation on his drive to the basket or on open threes. For all the flack he receives, he does have the skills to be a successful backup point guard. What’s missing is just the confidence and decisiveness to attack. More of this, please.
Eight — Raw: OG Anunoby had a disappointing night on offense, mostly because he squandered easy chances with poor footwork. Anunoby is similar to a younger Serge Ibaka in that respect, because the defense and talent is clearly there, but there’s this inexplicable habit of making unforced errors. The lesson with Ibaka is that the bad can be reduced, and the good can be accentuated. Sure, there are still moments of frustration with Ibaka, but he’s also become so automatic on the defined parts of his game that Ibaka is efficient and effective in spite of those moments. Anunoby needs to get to that level with his game, which is knocking down open threes and finishing everything around the basket.
Nine — Doubtful: Zach LaVine said he didn’t see “12 players in the East who had a better year” than him, which echoed the cries from Bradley Beal’s camp when he was also snubbed from the All-Star game. What they fail to account for is that individual scoring isn’t the name of the game. There’s more to winning than putting up 30 points. In what way did LaVine contribute to the Bulls’ defense? Did he create for his teammates despite being double teamed for most of the night? That’s why the Bulls lose, and why coaches didn’t vote him in as a reserve.
Ten — Record: The Raptors have tied their longest win streak in franchise history at 11 games. They last hit this milestone in 2018, only to be stopped by Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Raptors do have a tricky week coming up with a back-to-back against Indiana (who just lost to the Knicks, for what it’s worth) and the Nets (who may have lost Kyrie Irving to another injury).
More coverage on Yahoo Sports