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Tip-In: Work to Do, Chicago beats Toronto 110-103

The Raptors didn't come out with a win, but there was a lot to like in the Toronto loss to the Bulls.  As we count down to the final pre-season game in Montreal, last night's game gave us some more food for thought.

In what is to be the final preseason game in the ACC, I have to really thank the Bulls for giving me some additional ideas and thoughts about this year's Raptors team.  After all, they helped expose that the Raptors are going to have some pretty ugly rebounding nights if they aren't careful.  And last night, they showed they could still win even if they lost their rebounding advantage.

Yes, there wasn't any Joakim Noah or Carlos Boozer, nor was there even a Kyle Korver, but the Bulls still put on quite the display in the ACC.  With guys such as Derrick Rose, Omer Asik, Kurt Thomas and James Johnson, they exposed some nasty areas where the Raptors need to clean up before the season starts.

And even if it sounds odd, I'm totally up for it.

For one thing, the Bulls showed that the Raptors are going to have a ton of trouble if teams clog up the key on drives as many of our players have difficulties figuring out ways to escape traps, not to mention creating their own shots.  Andrea Bargnani, Amir Johnson, Jose Calderon, and many others got caught into this trap in the third quarter when Chicago made their push that eventually won them the game. 

It also exposed a need for the Raptors to read this kind of defense and perform more draw-and-kicks to 3-point shooters to break this crowding of the interior.  With our wings being a sophmore and rookie, both of whom are trying to extend their range, a streaky Lithuanian who hasn't shot more than 34% from beyond the arc, and a Brazillian who shoots just under 40% but is known for his streakiness, there just aren't many options.  If Bargnani or Andersen are outside shooting those threes, we will sacrifice offensive rebounding bodies.  Thus, the Bulls exposed a glaring weakness in our offense.

Toss in some lane intimidation by Omer Asik, and the Raptors were caught between a rock and a hard place.

On the defensive side, things weren't very much prettier.

The Raptors started to blow defensive assignments in the second half after the Bulls turned things around and tried to take the fight to the Raptors much in the same way that the Raptors did to them in the first half.  Toronto especially had a tough time in reigning in athletes such as Luol Deng and James Johnson, and speed monsters such as Derrick Rose and CJ Watson.  

But it wasn't all bad news for the Raptors.  For one, the Dinos definitely came out swinging.  While the second unit entered with a deficit, the Raps' starters had little to be ashamed about.  Andrea Bargnani looked much more confident and composed in the post, and DeMar DeRozan did his best Vince Carter imitation for most of the night with a variety of beautiful and aggressive shots, taking it to the inside of the Bulls.  Reggie Evans continued to show that he could become our rebounding champion who "knows his role" and Linas Kleiza was his usually "glue" self. Jarrett Jack came in and was his magic again for the second unit and Leandro Barbosa showed a little somethin'-somethin' on defense...not to mention his team-leading 22 points.  There was a lot to like in the first half and early second half, and the Raptors should commend themselves for doing some things that made Chicago have to make adjustments later in the match.

And I think that's going to be key moving forward.  Opponents of the Raptors are going to be in for a surprise as this team is going to be constantly growing and changing throughout the year.  How well this team continues to adapt and learn will absolutely be key this year.

I can't wait to get this season started.