CHICAGO – The Toronto Raptors rolled into the All-Star break knowing the toughest part is yet to come. They’ll take where they are at the moment – staring down at the rest of the Eastern Conference.
Kyle Lowry had 20 points and 10 assists, Serge Ibaka also scored 20 points, and the Raptors cruised into the break with their seventh straight victory, 122-98, over the Bulls on Wednesday night.
“We just have to keep it going,” coach Dwane Casey said. “We haven’t done anything. ... It’s even harder from here on out, and that’s why [we’re] not jumping up and down. We have a goal. We haven’t finished it yet.”
Lowry made four 3-pointers, and he and Ibaka each had seven rebounds.
Jonas Valanciunas added 14 points and nine rebounds to help the Raptors complete a four-game sweep against the Bulls even though they only got seven points from four-time All-Star DeMar DeRozan. But Toronto dished out a season-high 38 assists and shot just more than 52 percent against a weak defense, sending the Bulls to their ninth loss in 11 games.
“We’re heading in the right direction,” DeRozan said. “But at the same time, we still understand how much we need to clean up on the defensive end and the offensive end. As long as we keep that mindset anytime we step out there, whether it’s a practice or a game. We understand we’re trying to get better. It kind of carries us.”
Bobby Portis scored 18 points for the Bulls, and Lauri Markkanen had 14. The Bulls simply were overmatched by the Eastern Conference leaders, even though they had point guard Kris Dunn back in the lineup. He finished with eight points and three assists in 20 minutes after missing 11 games because of a concussion.
“Poor effort,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “I talked to the guys, win or lose you got to walk in the locker room after the game and look each other in the eye and say you were the harder playing team. We were not tonight.”
Dunn gave his conditioning “about a C-plus,” which was what he expected in his first game since Jan. 17.
He said his legs were “a little heavy,” and he’ll work on that over the break. He also is looking forward to playing in the Rising Stars Challenge during All-Star weekend, particularly since he struggled as a rookie with Minnesota last season.
“It’s a blessing,” he said. “From where I was last year to be able to fight back and work hard and to be recognized. For my family to be there, to fly out to Cali with me, it’s just a blessing. I appreciate everybody, my teammates and coaching staff.”
Acquired with Zach LaVine and Markkanen in the trade that sent Jimmy Butler to the Timberwolves, Dunn is averaging 13.5 points and 6.3 assists.