Sports

Vucevic’s double-double leads Bulls past Raptors

TORONTO – Bruce Brown wasn’t sure if he’d even play for the Raptors just six hours after he arrived in Toronto, but he knew his abilities to cut to the basket and set picks would make the trip with him from Indiana.

Nikola Vucevic had a double-double with 24 points and 13 rebounds to lead the Chicago Bulls past the Raptors 116-110 on Thursday. Brown scored 15 points and added seven rebounds off the bench a day after the Pacers traded him, Jordan Nwora and Kira Lewis Jr. to Toronto in a blockbuster deal for all-star Pascal Siakam.

“I don’t know any of the plays. I don’t know much,” chuckled Brown, who has also played for the Detroit Pistons, Brooklyn Nets and Denver Nuggets over his six NBA seasons. “I was just trying to be in the right spots, trying to make an imprint on the game on the defensive end.

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“I was setting screens and rolling like I was in Brooklyn again. It worked, so I kept doing it.”

The Raptors also got three first-round picks in the deal and team president Masai Ujiri said earlier Thursday that those picks would give Toronto more flexibility to rebuild. But Brown was just trying to find his place on the Raptors, including paying centre Jontay Porter US$10,000 to wear No. 11 on his new jersey.

“I don’t know where my shots are going to be. In Indy, I knew exactly where my shots were going to be,” said Brown. “Now I’m still trying to figure out the offence.

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“I’m trying to learn the guys’ games, and where I can impact offensively.”


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Toronto head coach Darko Rajakovic said before the game that he had actually conducted a study of the best cutters in the NBA and considered Brown one of them. Still, Rajakovic allowed that there is a learning curve in introducing any player to new schemes a few hours before a game.

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“We were really trying to simplify offensively there for him,” said Rajakovic. “Go stay in the corner, go set a pick-and-roll, literally like basic instruction.

“Thank God he’s a smart player and he’s not playing basketball for the first time.”

Former Raptors star DeMar DeRozan had 24 points and seven rebounds for Chicago (20-23), while Coby White had 23 points and eight boards.

Scottie Barnes led Toronto (16-26) with 31 points, seven rebounds and six assists. RJ Barrett of Mississauga, Ont., had 17 points and six assists.

“I’m just trying to win,” said Barnes, who is now the focal point of the Raptors’ offence with Siakam’s departure. “We found things that were working and we stuck to it.”

The Raptors missed all nine of their three-point attempts in the first quarter after making a season-best 20 throughout their 121-97 win over the Miami Heat on Wednesday. That allowed Chicago to build a 38-27 lead after one quarter.

“We missed six or seven straight threes that were good, open shots and it just spiralled with us, affected our defence,” said Rajakovic.

A 6-0 Bulls run closed out the first half with the visitors holding a 63-58 lead.

Barnes hit a three-pointer to bring the 19,312 fans at Scotiabank Arena to their feet and pull Toronto back to within five with 33 seconds left in the third. Chicago led by as much as 13 points in the quarter and held a 90-86 advantage heading into the final period.

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Barnes made two free throws and then assisted on Barrett’s dunk with 8:54 left to give Toronto a one-point lead and force a Bulls timeout.

White tied it for Chicago 90 seconds later and the two teams traded field goals for several minutes of play.

Brown had back-to-back layups to help Toronto get a brief two-point lead with 4:15 left in the game but Alex Caruso made a three-pointer to re-take the lead for Chicago.

Barnes and White traded jumpers to keep the Bulls’ one-point lead and then DeRozan hit a field goal with 1:45 on the clock for a 112-109 Chicago advantage.

Caruso then fouled Barnes, but the Raptors star only made one of his two free throws. At the other end of the court DeRozan was fouled by Immanuel Quickley.

The former Toronto star made both shots from the charity stripe before White sank a floater after a Barnes turnover for a six-point lead with 19.7 seconds left.

WARM WELCOME — Raptors legend Vince Carter got a rousing ovation during an early break in play. He was at the game doing commentary with the NBA on TNT in a game broadcast across the United States.

UP NEXT — The Raptors travel to Manhattan to take on the rival New York Knicks, the first game between the two teams since Barrett and Quickley were sent to Toronto.

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Chicago hosts the Memphis Grizzlies on Saturday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 18, 2024.

&copy 2024 The Canadian Press

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