Bulls win over Siakam-less Raptors shows Vucevic still has All-Star talent

Toronto Raptors v Chicago Bulls
Toronto Raptors v Chicago Bulls / Michael Reaves/GettyImages

With the Chicago Bulls set to take on the Raptors last night, there couldn't have possibly been a better time for Toronto's front office to hit the self-destruct button by trading away their All-NBA forward Pascal Siakam. Receiving Bruce Brown, Jordan Nwora, and three first-round picks in return, the Raptors have clearly signaled to the league that they intend to rebuild around Scottie Barnes moving forward.

This trade has unsurprisingly left a big hole in the Raptors' rotation — the second time the Raptors have committed this error this season, after losing to the historically bad Detroit Pistons on the night they traded away OG Anunoby. Although the incoming Bruce Brown would surprisingly be ready to suit up, Jakob Poeltl and Otto Porter's injuries left Toronto's frontcourt significantly undermanned.

Fortunately for the Bulls, this granted Nikola Vucevic the opportunity to take advantage of an undersized and relatively poor big man rotation. Chicago has notoriously failed to take advantage of mismatches in the low post for their star big man, so this was going to be a big test to see if this team is capable of correctly utilizing Vucevic's strengths in an ideal scenario.

In the end, Toronto's fill-ins of Thaddeus Young, Chris Boucher, and Jontay Porter would perform better than expected — particularly the latter, who tallied 10 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 blocks, and 2 triples in just his third start of his career — but it would not nearly be enough to stop the Montenegrin big man. Vucevic would leave his imprint all over the game, posting an incredible stat line of 24 points, 14 rebounds, 7 assists, and 2 steals.

Nikola Vucevic will shine if the Bulls continue to utilize him like they did in last night's win over the Raptors.

Vucevic's dominance ultimately led his team to a much-needed win, as Chicago outscored Toronto by a whopping 23 points when he was on the floor. The Bulls needed every point he had to offer, as they just narrowly edged out a 116-110 victory.

Down 108-109 with 2:21 remaining on the clock in the fourth quarter, Vucevic and the Bulls would be forced to rally in the closing moments to pull this one out. Fortunately, he wouldn't have to do it alone, as Coby White and DeMar DeRozan dialed in offensively. The duo combined for 47 points, 15 rebounds, and 10 assists, including the Bulls' final 8 points to secure the lead in the end.

Chicago's defensive effort cannot be understated either, as Alex Caruso was an integral asset in the clutch. Forcing Scottie Barnes' to commit two critical turnovers as well as several ill-advised three-pointers from Immanuel Quickley, Gary Trent Jr., and R.J. Barrett. With such a tight margin of victory, it's hard not to think how this could have potentially been a loss had Pascal Siakam been available to play.

The Bulls now advance to 20-23, creeping ever close to an even .500 winning percentage and re-entering the discussion for playoff contention. With games against the Grizzlies, Trail Blazers, Hornets, and a rematch against the Raptors coming in the next two weeks, there's a chance the Bulls might get there sooner than expected.

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