3 cheers for Miles as Raptors rout Bulls
TORONTO — The Toronto Raptors signed C.J. Miles as a free agent to improve their 3-point shooting.
If first impressions are lasting, it was a good move.
Miles, who made 41 percent of his 3-point attempts with the Indiana Pacers last season, was 6-for-9 from beyond the arc Thursday night and scored 22 points off the bench as the Raptors defeated the Chicago Bulls 117-100.
“I want to be able to be that spark,” Miles said. “Come in, communicate, bring energy. I was overhyped in that first half.”
Jonas Valanciunas led Raptors with 23 points and 15 rebounds in the season opener for each team.
“(Miles) is great, he made those shots when we needed it,” Valanciunas said. “He’s here for making shots, so he’s doing his job. He has a great work ethic, working hard, and that pays off on the court.”
Norman Powell added 15 points for the Raptors, while Kyle Lowry scored 12 points and had nine assists. Delon Wright added 13 points with DeMar DeRozan contributing 11.
“I love playing with (Miles),” Wright said. “He spaces the floor for us, and we’re able to drive and find him.”
Miles led the Raptors’ second unit, and coach Dwane Casey was impressed.
“They expanded the lead and didn’t lose it and really impressed,” Casey said. “We got kind of caught between letting our starters get minutes, get the rust off and get used to an NBA game. Again, it’s a long season, we are going to need all our starters to play. It was kind of a disjointed game a little bit, but I was really impressed with the second unit.”
Robin Lopez scored 18 points and grabbed eight rebounds for the Bulls. Rookie Lauri Markkanen had 17 points and eight rebounds, Justin Holiday added 15 points, and Denzel Valentine scored 12.
“I thought Lauri was really good,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “Coming out here on the road in a hostile environment to go out and put up a 17 and eight in his first NBA game was pretty impressive. I thought he ran the floor well, had a couple of shots that he’s going to make. I thought he was OK (defensively).”
Markkanen said, “A lot to improve, but if I had any nerves for the first game, those are out now.”
The Raptors, who led by as many as 27 points in the second quarter, took a 58-37 lead into the second half and still led by 20 points after three quarters.
“In the second half I thought we were real good,” Hoiberg said. “We played with good pace. ... I was proud of the guys in the second half for coming back. We had three chances to cut the thing to 12.”
The Bulls got to within 15 points early in the fourth quarter before the Raptors increased the lead to 24 points with 4:58 to play on three free throws by Lowry.
Toronto led 25-23 after the first quarter led by 10 points from Powell.
Miles made a 3-pointer with 7:09 to play in the second quarter to put the Raptors ahead 45-25.
Powell’s 3-pointer stretched the lead to 27 points with 2:12 to play in the first half.
The Raptors led 58-37 after the first half. Powell had 15 points, Miles 14 and Valanciunas added 10 points and eight rebounds in the first half for Toronto.
“Obviously, we gave up a big run there,” Lopez said. “And they put some distance between us. I thought the guys did a good job of keeping a cool head after that.”
The Bulls trimmed the Raptors’ lead to 17 when Markkanen made three free throws with 7:43 to play in the third quarter. Jerian Grant’s layup whittled the lead to 14.
Toronto led 84-64 after the third quarter.
“It’s fun, especially with that unit,” Miles said. “We were up-tempo. We play hard.”
NOTES: Chicago F Bobby Portis did not play as he started an eight-game suspension imposed by the team for punching teammate F Nikola Mirotic during practice Tuesday. Mirotic (concussion, facial fractures) will be out four to six weeks because of the injuries resulting from the punch. Lauri Markkanen started at the power forward position Thursday. ... Toronto won its final two exhibition games to finish with a 3-2 preseason record. Chicago finished the preseason with a 3-3 record. ... The Bulls won the 2016-17 season series 2-1. ... The Raptors will remain home to face the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday, while the Bulls will host the San Antonio Spurs on Saturday.