Can it be characterized as an upset, the Bulls’ defeat of the Toronto Raptors last night, 129 to 120? Maybe not an upset, but a satisfying win against the team (surprisingly) sitting atop the Eastern Conference.
The victory also ended the Raptors’ six-game win streak.
I give these Raptors credit. And “We the North,” their grammatically incorrect slogan, has caught on. During the playoffs last year, fans filled the streets of Toronto for viewing parties. I’m impressed.
But the Raptors, aiming to even up the score after the Bulls beat them (rather convincingly) in November, evidently forgot that “We the Bulls.”
The Bulls #1 fan is out of her CHI comfort zone, where she’s all cozy with CSNChicago and WGN broadcasts, and the amusing and reliable hometown call of Stacey King and Neil Funk. Here in CT (visiting the folks for Christmas), in the land of the UConn Huskies, access to the Bulls vs. Raps game could be questionable.
A Christmas Elf (Dad) purchased NBA League Pass, and to our joy, we were able to get the CSNChicago Broadcast with Neil and Stacey, so no missing out on the “can I get some butter with that roll, the Secretary of Defense and too big, too strong, too fast, too good.”
While I heard a lot of “they don’t miss” from Dad, in speaking of the Raps, I tried to convince him (and myself) that the Bulls tend to sleepwalk through the first half, but following Thibs’ halftime speech, they would come out and dominate in the third quarter.
“The Bulls own Q3,” I claimed. Well, not so much.
This time, they saved it all for the fourth. Records were broken, with the Bulls scoring 49 points in Q4 alone – the most in Bulls’ history. New heights were reached, as Pau Gasol surpassed 17,000 points in his career.
DRose scored 15 points in the fourth. Aaron Brooks scored seven straight points. Jo had an easy basket on an inbounds pass when the Raptors forgot about defense. Niko (Mirotic) put on his usual three-point show.
“I think we’ve got a lot of weapons, a lot of guys who can score the ball a lot of ways. I think that we need to keep improving on our collective defense. We scored a lot of points tonight, though, and that’s a plus,” Joakim Noah said. “You see what Jimmy’s doing, Derrick back doing his thing, the sky’s the limit.”
Now “We the Bulls” have a different kind of problem. Last year, whether or not they could score 49 points in an entire game was questionable.
This year, it’s the challenge of finding time for all the stars. Pau didn’t even make it back in for the final quarter.
“I was planning on coming back with Pau, and it was Taj’s first game back and we’re still trying to work our way through things,” Thibodeau said, “and that group (with DRose, Aaron Brooks, Jimmy Butler, Niko and Jo) had a good run so I wanted to ride it as far as we could.”
“It’s always a good problem to have,” Thibodeau said of his depth. “When you have good players, it’s a good problem to have.”
Problems. Yes, we have them.
And tonight, when the Bulls visit the Wizards, who we all love to hate – that’s the biggest problem of them all.
The Raps. There’s really no reason to hate them. I don’t mind anybody on the team. The coach, Dwane Casey seems fine enough. I like Toronto – the people, the city. The Canadian National Anthem – love that too. I question “We the North,” but I don’t question the fact that the teams seems to be made up of quality guys.
Fast forward to quite a different kind of team (the Wiz) with Marcin Gortat, the hated Nene, not-so-well-loved Paul Pierce, plus John Wall. Ugh.
The Bulls and the Wizards do not like each other. We can expect boos and ejections, technical fouls and fights. Oh, I almost forgot about the head butts.
When the Bulls faced the Wiz in their first pre-season game this season, Jo got into a shoving match with Paul Pierce four minutes into the first quarter: Paul Pierce vs. Joakim Noah (2014 preseason game).
As Stacey King mentions, this was bubbling over from the 2014 playoffs, stemming from the Jimmy Butler and Nene head butting incident.
There’s really no love between these teams, and I don’t expect warm fuzzies, rainbows and puppy dogs by tonight’s tip off. Just not what you’d expect from a Thibs-led team anyway.
What we can expect is a Tuesday night WWF Smackdown in DC.
Beat the Wizards.