For the second time this week, the Toronto Raptors handled their business against the Chicago Bulls.
Even without Kawhi Leonard, Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby, the Raptors cruised to a 124-101 victory over the Bulls at the United Center in Chicago. It was a balanced effort for Toronto, as six players scored in double figures, led by Fred VanVleet, who started in place of Leonard and scored 23 points.
The Raptors are now 22-5 this season when VanVleet starts.
For more on the game, here are some takeaways from Sunday's contest...
The injury report
Kawhi Leonard missed the game for personal reasons and OG Anunoby was held out for concussion-like symptoms.
Pascal Siakam was in uniform, but he was available "just in case." He ultimately sat out the entire game to get some rest.
A strong start for Serge Ibaka
On a night where the Raptors were down two starters, it was Serge Ibaka who came out of the gates strong.
Starting alongside Marc Gasol for the first time this season, Ibaka led the way for Toronto in the first quarter with eight points, six rebounds and one steal.
He also came up with one block, though he altered several more shots at the rim that won't show up in the box score.
Chef's feasting early- Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) March 31, 2019
8 pts - 6 rebs - 1 blk pic.twitter.com/29DwS2nQxM
Ibaka was solid the rest of the way, finishing with 23 points, 12 rebounds and one block in 28 minutes of action.
Ibaka now has 14 20-point games this season. He's only had more 20-point performances twice in his career - 16 in 2013-14 and 15 in 2016-17.
The second quarter
The Raptors had this game in the bag by the end of the second quarter.
While they trailed the Bulls by two points after the first quarter, they built a sizeable lead heading into halftime thanks to a 27-11 run in the second quarter.
The Raptors assisted on eight of their 12 baskets during that stretch and missed only two of their shot attempts.
Much better. #RTZ- Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) March 31, 2019
FVV - 15p
Chef - 12p pic.twitter.com/3eqG9pfXBY
Jodie Meeks was Toronto's leading scorer in the second quarter. He finished the frame with 11 points (5-6 FG), which is the most he has scored in a game since April 11 of the 2017-18 season.
Fred VanVleet was also fantastic for the Raptors in the second quarter, chipping in with eight points, three assists and two rebounds.
One of those assists - an alley-oop to Norman Powell in transition - was an absolute beauty:
Peep @Klow7 pic.twitter.com/B35c5f94ED- Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) March 31, 2019
The Raptors kept their foot on the gas the rest of the way, extending their lead to as much as 24 points in the third quarter.
Marc Gasol's 3-point shooting
Earlier this month, Nick Nurse told reporters that he wanted to see Marc Gasol shoot some more 3s.
"I want him to bomb some more 3s, maybe 5 or 6 a night, try to get that little part of his game back on track," Nurse said. "Cut him loose a little bit."
Gasol has long been a capable 3-point shooter, but he hasn't been taking nearly as many 3-pointers with the Raptors as he was with the Memphis Grizzlies at the start of the season, going from averaging 4.4 attempts per 36 minutes to 2.6.
That's why it was encouraging to see Gasol launch four 3-pointers in the 28 minutes he played against the Bulls and make three of them. It's the most he's made and the second-most he's attempted so far in a Raptors uniform.
Gasol: Nice shot, eh?- Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) March 31, 2019
Lopez: Was a nice shot styll pic.twitter.com/S5NOFMvGep
With the No. 2 seed all but locked up for the Raptors and only a few games remaining before the postseason, now is the time to see if Gasol can regain his shooting touch from deep.
The second unit
These last few games will be big for the bench as well.
Nurse talked about it prior to their first game against the Bulls this week, saying there are still players on the second unit that are fighting for minutes.
Against the Bulls, it was Jeremy Lin, Norman Powell and Jodie Meeks who stepped up off the bench. Lin scored 12 points (4-8 FG) in 23 minutes, Powell had 15 (6-11 FG) in 28 minutes and Meeks contributed with 14 (6-9 FG) in 28 minutes.
Those three and others will continue to get opportunities in the final five games of the season.
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