#1 including three from the 2010 Winter Games von Cl11234566 01.11.2019 04:10

CHICAGO - Reality is real, Dwane Casey had said, getting existential after Sundays win over New York looking ahead to the Raptors upcoming road trip, beginning in Chicago the following night. Thats what Mondays loss came down to. The reality is, the Raptors were playing the second half of a back-to-back, while the rested Bulls had been off since Friday. The Raptors were without DeMar DeRozan, their leading scorer, while Chicago welcomed Derrick Rose and Taj Gibson back to the lineup. Most of all, the reality is, the Raptors got outplayed by a battle-tested team when it mattered most. We were due for a stinker, Casey said following his teams 129-120 loss to the Bulls. We had one tonight. After seeing their 12-point third-quarter advantage wiped out, thanks in large part to a seven-minute scoring drought, the Raptors went into the fourth clinging onto a three-point lead before things went from bad to embarrassingly bad. The Bulls made 14 of their 20 shots over the final 12 minutes of the game. They attempted 22 of their 47 free throws and scored 49 points - the most Toronto has surrendered in any quarter during the franchises 20-year-history. We didnt play defence, acknowledged Kyle Lowry - not that it needed to be acknowledged - who had 18 of his game-high 34 points in the high-scoring fourth frame. They executed extremely well. 49 points... Give them credit. Give them credit. They were in such a rhythm and flow in the fourth and we didnt disrupt them much at all. Without DeRozan - who could have come in handy Monday simply by getting to the line and taking pressure off Torontos guards - Lowry was left to battle Chicagos all-star calibre backcourt tandem on his own. In a vintage performance, Rose - back from a two-game absence with an illness - was spectacular, scoring 15 of his 29 points in the fourth while hitting all six of his shots. The two point guards went back and forth, exchanging blows and carrying their teams until Chicago pulled away with just over three minutes left. It was fun, Lowry said of the match-up with Rose. He got the best of me because his team, won but it was great to see him back playing extremely well like he was tonight. The shot that may have sealed it, directly following an impressive spin and dribble drive from Lowry, came from Jimmy Butler, who banked in a 15-footer to five the Bulls a seven-point lead. Rose and Butler combined to score 56 points on just 35 shots on the night while the Raptors most impressive players through three quarters - Jonas Valanciunas, James Johnson and Terrence Ross - hit just one jumper in the fourth. Lowry was on an island. Valanciunas, who attempted a career-high 18 shots Monday night, launched just one in the fourth as the Bulls took him out of the game (or the Raptors Lowry-centric offence took him out of the game, depending on how you look at it). In a way, it may have been the reality check this team needed. The loss snapped Torontos six-game winning streak - all of those victories having come against losing teams. The Raptors have played three contests against winning clubs in December - two against Cleveland and Mondays game in Chicago - and theyve dropped them all, despite holding a lead entering the fourth quarter in two of them. The Raptors improved offence and late-game resiliency had been bailing them out against inferior opponents but, as they get set to head out West for a challenging five-game stretch, theyll have to rediscover their defensive roots to be successful. Theyre a good team and we knew that coming in, Casey said of the Bulls. You cant go in and think youre going to out-score people. Defence left us in the second half. I dont know if we ran out of gas or what, I just thought our defensive attention to detail wasnt there. The reality is, they were never going to win all six games on this season-long road trip, not given DeRozans injury - still without a timetable for his return - and the degree of difficulty theyll face. Now, theyll go their separate ways, celebrating the holidays with family and friends for three days before reconvening on the West coast. Thats going to be good to refresh your mind and body, to lay down a couple of days in a bed, just not do anything, said Valanciunas, who had 20 points and nine rebounds in the loss. And come back on [the] 27th ready to play and win some games. MOST IMPROVED? Bulls guard Jimmy Butler has surprised a lot of people around the league this year, but Dwane Casey is not one of them. Ive been in love with him, [had] a man crush on him for a while now, the Raptors coach said of the fourth-year pro. Hes a strong, physical kid. Now hes knocking down shots, handling the ball. Hes just developed into an all-around, all-star type of player. Butler emerged late in his sophomore season back in 2012-13 and took his game to another level last season. Now, a third of the way through the campaign, hes established himself as one of the NBAs elite two-way players. On the surface it would appear hes benefiting from an improved supporting cast - Rose is back, Pau Gasol was added - and while theres probably something to that, hes been consistently excellent with most of his teammates in and out of the lineup this year. Primarily known as a defender, initially, the 25-year-old has become an all-around contributor. Playing virtually the same amount as he did last year (hes logging just one minute more per game), Butlers scoring average has increased by nearly nine points while his shooting percentage has gone from 40 up to 49. Hes one of those kids you really admire, because hes made a lot out of who he was coming out of college, Casey said of Butler, who leads the NBA in minutes per game and ranks 13th in scoring. I dont think anybody projected him to be where he is now and my hat is off to him and the way he has worked and developed his offensive skills. Hes always had deefensive skills, but hes develeoped his offensive skills, with that strength, is unbelievable. Johnson, starting in place of the injured DeRozan and Landry Fields, was the primary defender assigned to Butler on Monday but it didnt seem to matter who was guarding the Bulls emerging star. Butler scored 27 points, making all 11 of his free throws, and grabbed 11 rebounds for his second consecutive double-double. On defence, his length frustrated Raptors reserve Lou Williams, who hit just three of his 10 shots. Butler figures to be the leading, albeit early candidate for the NBAs Most Improved Player award, with Raptors guard Kyle Lowry also on the short list. The Bulls guard beat Lowry out for Eastern Conference Player of the Week in November. 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