DeRozan settles Bulls, seals first 4-0 start in 25 years
For a few minutes, the Bulls looked like they might be ready to challenge for the top seed in the East, building a 20-point lead at Toronto on Monday.
Not long after, they transformed into a bunch of guys who still don't know each other very well and made all kinds of bad mistakes down the stretch.
The Raptors made a big comeback, but the Bulls managed to hang on for a 111-108 victory when Fred VanVleet's potential tying 3-pointer missed at the buzzer.
By pulling out the win, the Bulls are off to a 4-0 start for the first time since 1996. They're the only undefeated team left in the East after Charlotte and Washington lost Monday, and this is the first time in Zach LaVine's NBA career he's won four games in a row.
"It don't mean nothing," DeMar DeRozan said. "Got a long way to go, got a lot more to clean up and learn. We can't carry this record like it's some kind of badge of honor. We've got to understand the next game's going to be even harder."
When the Bulls started to wobble late, it was longtime Raptor DeRozan who calmed everything down. When Toronto first closed within 2, DeRozan hit a pair of jumpers, Alex Caruso got a steal and drew a foul, then LaVine's 3-pointer put the Bulls ahead 106-96 with 2:44 remaining.
That should have been a comfortable lead, but the Bulls started turning the ball over. LaVine lost his dribble in the backcourt, Nikola Vucevic had a pass deflected, then Lonzo Ball couldn't connect on an inbounds pass, which was stolen for a dunk by rookie Scottie Barnes to bring Toronto within 110-108 with 14.4 seconds left.
"That's what they were, mistakes," Ball said. "We're fortunate we still won the game, and we get to learn on the fly. We've just got to watch film and get on the same page and figure out how we want to close games."
Vucevic hit 1 of 2 free throws, then got switched onto VanVleet, but managed to stay with the much -smaller guard and make him take a tough shot at the end.
"I think with the ballhandling and the skill we have, we've got to be better in those situations with the turnovers," Bulls coach Billy Donovan said. "There were just some bad possessions we didn't need to have. But I think anytime you can win and hopefully still learn, I think it's a good thing."
DeRozan led the Bulls with 26 points, scored 11 of their 19 points in the fourth quarter and had none of their 7 turnovers during the final 12 minutes.
"You live for those moments," DeRozan said. "I get up for those moments, I love them. Since a kid, just having an imagination, hitting big shots in a dark room, you feed into that when there's 20,000 fans watching.
"It was part of the reason they wanted me to come here was my experience, being in those moments, understanding how to deal with those moments. It's a learning experience, me just teaching other guys. We all understand there's a lot of stuff we can go back and look at, mistakes we made, but I think when the game turns that way, it's on me to kind of slow it down."
Vucevic was listed as questionable before the game due to an illness, but he ended up playing 34 minutes, producing 17 points and 8 rebounds.
VanVleet, a Rockford native, piled up a career-high 17 assists, while OG Anunoby led the Raptors with 22 points. All-star Pascal Siakam is out while recovering from shoulder surgery.
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