1 stud and 1 dud from Raptors intense loss against Bulls

Gary Trent Jr. and the Toronto Raptors may have welcomed Scottie Barnes back into the fold against old friend DeMar DeRozan and the Chicago Bulls, but they still had to match up with one of the best teams in the East without Fred VanVleet. Would the likes of Precious Achiuwa and Chris Boucher help pick up the pace?

The Raptors appeared to be in for yet another bludgeoning at the hands of a superior opponent early on, as Nikola Vucevic and Zach LaVine were having their way with Toronto’s defense. Luckily, the Raptors were able to recalibrate and make it a game heading into the second half.

Toronto erased a big early deficit to eventually take the lead in the fourth quarter, but they ultimately lost 111-105. Toronto fell back to .500 at 23-23 this season, as they dug a hole too big to climb out of in the first half.

Considering the situation they walked into and the quality of the opponent they were facing, the Raptors should be heralded for their effort tonight. Only a handful of players can be signed out as poor performers against a deep Chicago team.

Toronto Raptors
Chicago Bulls

Gary Trent Jr. was spectacular for the Toronto Raptors.

Trent was on fire in a win against the Hornets, going for 32 points in a performance that showed he can help pick up some of the offensive responsibility when a few of the stars are sitting. Naturally, he followed Tuesday’s showstopper with another fantastic exhibition against a quality defensive team.

Trent, who was ejected in the fourth quarter on a bogus technical foul call, finished with 32 points once more, going 11-22 from the field and 6-10 from 3-point range. The comeback would not have been possible if Trent wasn’t scorching hot from 3-point range in the second and third quarters.

Trent can be a little volatile as a player. He might follow up a night where he can’t miss with a 3-11 game. Still, he is an invaluable asset to this team, as his 3-point shooting gives the starting lineup another arrow in their quiver that forces teams to guard them honestly on the perimeter.

The Raptors made 12 3-pointers tonight, and the combination of Trent and OG Anunoby accounted for nine of them. The Raptors may have ended up on the losing end of this one, but Trent is not to blame.

Precious Achiuwa had a rough night for the Toronto Raptors.

There’s nothing wrong with Nick Nurse developing a raw player like Achiuwa this season. There’s also nothing wrong with starting him after several rotation players went down due to injury. However, when you play him against an elite team, his flaws stick out under this magnifying glass.

Achiuwa had just three points and six rebounds in 23 minutes. Perhaps more concerningly, he was one of the main reasons Vucevic helped take this game over in the early going. He beat him up on offense and didn’t put in a ton of effort when shutting him down on defense.

Achiuwa was outclassed by Vucevic tonight. Pascal Siakam has a very poor shooting night after a fantastic stretch of games this month, but he made up for it by playmaking and distributing the ball. When Achiuwa can’t use his strength to assert himself on defense, the trait giving him most of his value evaporates.