Bulls get the win, prove that having ‘Big Three’ is better than simply being big
The visiting Raptors have size, but they don’t have Zach LaVine, DeMar DeRozan and Nikola Vucevic. They made the difference, especially during crunch time.
The Raptors’ starting lineup Wednesday stood 6-8, 6-8, 6-7, 6-7 and 6-5.
There’s no doubt they are big; they just don’t have a ‘‘Big Three.’’
That proved to be the difference for the Bulls, whose ‘‘Big Three’’ of guard Zach LaVine, forward DeMar DeRozan and center Nikola Vucevic countered that size with talent.
DeRozan finished with 29 points, seven rebounds and seven assists, LaVine with 23 points, eight rebounds and eight assists and Vucevic with 17 points, 15 rebounds and eight assists.
And it was Vucevic who provided the clinching three-pointer with 14.5 seconds left that helped the Bulls beat the Raptors 111-105 at the United Center to stay half-game behind the first-place Heat in the Eastern Conference.
And while DeRozan wasn’t about to rank this performance with others he, LaVine and Vucevic have had, he hoped it was the start of something special that COVID-19 protocols and injuries frequently have interrupted this season.
‘‘We’re sharing it,’’ DeRozan said of their stat lines. ‘‘Take what they give us, make our teammates better and just find our rhythm playing together. It’s been a little while since we all played together.
‘‘I never think about ranking it. All of us are just getting comfortable. It’s a good start. Just try and continue to build on that.’’
Meanwhile, continuing to do the dirty work was rookie guard Ayo Dosunmu, who continued his evolution as the starting point guard with Lonzo Ball possibly missing up to two months after his scheduled knee surgery Friday.
Dosunmu scored only seven points, but he continued playing solid defense and learning how to deal with pressure from opposing teams. And while he had some growing pains, the Bulls were a plus-20 with him on the court.
‘‘I think the biggest adjustment for us is Ayo has taken over that responsibility as a starter,’’ coach Billy Donovan said. ‘‘When we had been whole with Lonzo and Alex [Caruso], he’d been off the ball quite a bit.
‘‘I think he was slashing to the basket, got out in transition, a lot of catch-and-go drives, those kinds of things. All of a sudden, he’s got to get us in our offense. He’s got to grow in this, and I think it will be good for him.’’
Dosunmu re-entered the game with 7:57 left in the fourth quarter and the Bulls clinging to a four-point lead.
The Raptors eventually cut that deficit to one — after trailing by 19 points in the third quarter — thanks to their continued ball pressure.
The Raptors then took the lead when OG Anunoby attacked the rim with a dunk. LaVine, however, responded with a three-point play at the other end to give the Bulls the edge again.
The Bulls led by four when the Raptors’ Gary Trent Jr. cut the deficit to two with 2:03 left. But when he didn’t get a foul call on the made basket, he clapped his hands in protest, picked up a second technical foul and was ejected.
With Trent and his 32 points in the locker room, the Raptors didn’t score again. But the Bulls did, as LaVine made the technical free throw before Vucevic’s three-pointer closed the scoring.
‘‘I don’t care how many shots he missed,’’ DeRozan said of Vucevic. ‘‘Every time I see him loaded up, I have the utmost confidence it’s going to go in.’’