Bulls learn some tough lessons in home-opening blowout loss to Raptors
All those good feelings from the previous night in Memphis were quickly crushed as the defending champions came into town and walked out with a 24-point victory.
It was supposed to be a prove-it game for the young Bulls.
It was a chance to show that Year 3 of the rebuild had some traction. They’d have the chance to stand toe-to-toe with the defending NBA champions and exchange body blows. Maybe more important, the Bulls would send a message to their fans that taking care of business at home will be a priority this season.
Instead, the game turned out to be a total embarrassment, nothing more than a reminder of just how far this team is from being taken seriously.
The Raptors outclassed the Bulls in their United Center opener in almost every facet in a 108-84 laugher.
Since last season, the Bulls are 9-33 at the UC, an obvious concern for coach Jim Boylen.
“It’s been a huge point of emphasis,’’ Boylen said. “But those are just words. You gotta go out and do it.’’
It wasn’t going to be done on Saturday, not the way the Bulls played, especially in the second half.
Through the first two quarters, there was at least some life — not much, mind you, but a pulse. The Bulls held Toronto to 48 points, and there were five lead changes. But the Raptors only allowed 40 points.
Toronto held the Bulls to 4-for-17 shooting from three-point range and forced 11 turnovers.
Once the second half started, the Raptors decided playtime was over, outscoring the Bulls 36-22 in the third quarter and shooting 14-for-23 (60.9 percent) from the field, including 6-for-12 from three-point range.
The Raptors’ starters were able to get wherever they wanted on the court, led by Fred VanVleet, who had 10 points.
Meanwhile, the Bulls’ offense was stuck in mud, and even rookie Coby White couldn’t bail them out like he did a night earlier against the Grizzlies.
No one could.
“We have to learn that when the ball isn’t going in, we still have to guard,’’ Boylen said. “And when the ball isn’t going in, we have to move it more, not less. Those are the lessons from Saturday.
“I was on those championship teams that come into a place for a home opener, and they take a lot of pride in spoiling that. Mentally and physically, we have to compete for longer stretches, and we have to be tougher.’’
Boylen wasn’t the only one feeling that way, either.
“It was a little hard on us when we didn’t score,’’ guard Tomas Satoransky said. “We missed layups, easy shots, and I think we had a problem playing defense the way we were [earlier in the game]. We can’t get down on ourselves during those moments. We have to play defense for 48 minutes.’’
By the time the fourth quarter started, the Bulls found themselves down by 22, and any fight they had coming into the game had been extinguished.
The Bulls ended up shooting 30.2 percent from the field (29-for-96), their lowest mark since they shot 28.2 percent against the Thunder in 2017.
“You could see their experience and the way they executed,’’ Satoransky said.
“You could see that they have been together for a long time. They are a championship team, and you have to respect the way they play.’’