TORONTO – The Raptors defensive gameplan was simple, and one that DeMar DeRozan has become very familiar with over the last year.
When Zach LaVine is in street clothes, expect the opposition to throw everything DeRozan’s way. Blitzes, double-teams, heck, kitchen sinks if it was legal.
That left DeRozan in the position of getting what he could, but relying on his teammates to have those clutch moments.
Moments that never came.
On a night in which the Bulls had turnover issues and trouble dealing with Toronto’s size on the boards, they still had plenty of good looks thanks to the attention DeRozan got all night. Good looks, but with far too many bad results in the 113-104 loss at the Scotiabank Arena.
“It was like Milwaukee after he had that big Game 2 [in the playoffs],” coach Billy Donovan said, referring to the way the Bucks attacked DeRozan defensively. “I think one of the things that happens is he was so unbelievable last year carrying us in different ways, and what ends up happening is you start going deeper and deeper into the season, and teams start forcing other guys to have to make some plays.
“When guys aren’t in that situation and asked to do it later in the season, it’s a lot tougher. We’ve still got to be able to generate good shots, and we can’t be a team that says, ‘OK, if DeMar is not getting 35, it’s going to be hard for us to win.’ ”
It was against Toronto, especially late.
The Bulls (5-6) couldn’t have asked for a better first quarter, as the Raptors gameplan was being taken apart by DeRozan. He found an open Nikola Vucevic on 4-of-6 shooting in that first stanza, generated three three-pointers, and came out of the quarter with a 30-21 lead.
Then the careless turnovers started happening.
Six of them alone in the second, as the home team outscored the Bulls 34-19 going into halftime.
Despite entering the fourth with 13 turnovers, as well as being blocked on eight shots, the Bulls started the quarter down just one and the game sitting there for the taking.
It got taken, but by Toronto.
Not only did the Raptors turn the Bulls over four more times, but dominated them on the glass 19-10 in that final quarter, including 11 offensive rebounds that led to 11 second-chance points.
And yes, the double-teaming of DeRozan didn’t stop.
“It was expected,” DeRozan said of the defense he saw all night. “The first half, we played well out of it. Second half, we kind of made a lot of mistakes out of it. We didn’t take advantage like we could. It’s a great learning lesson for us, understanding how we can attack it. We just got to be aggressive with it, attack it, force them to switch it up a little bit, but I’m pretty sure we’re going to look at a lot of film [Sunday].”
They better, with the two teams meeting again Monday, this time at the United Center and with LaVine (left knee management) expected back.
What will DeRozan be expecting?
A lot of the same, especially with the “unorthodox” way in which Nurse attacks opposing teams.
“There were times [Nurse] was putting a bigger body in after another,” DeRozan said of his former assistant from his days with Toronto. “That’s just him. So unorthodox how he does everything, and it kind of makes you think a little bit.
“It’s not frustrating. It’s more so take what the defense gives us. It’s on us. For the most part, we’re getting an advantage when [they double-team]. We just have to execute.”