Where to Watch: TSN, 7:00 p.m. EST
Whether you blame Lou Williams, Dwane Casey, or the team’s defence for the loss to the Detroit Pistons last night, it’s time to pick up and move on for the Toronto Raptors. After an overnight flight home, they’re back on the court tonight to play the Chicago Bulls – the last meeting between the two teams this season.
Chicago and Toronto are (somehow) still separated by a half game in the Eastern Conference standings, but the Bulls already locked up the season series with their win on March 20. For the Raptors, if they have hopes of snatching the three spot from the Bulls, tonight starts to look like a must-win.
In that March 20 game, in case you forgot, the Bulls simply ran roughshod over the Raptors in a 108-92 win. They outscored Toronto 54-26 in the paint, often appearing to run a layup drill with uncontested back cuts. On the other end, the Raptors shot 38 percent and Jonas Valanciunas took just one shot in 24 minutes. One! Nikola Mirotic had 29 to lead Chicago, and if the Raptors have any hope in this one, they need to find someone who can defend the volcanic-hot rookie (James Johnson, anyone?).
Always the walking wounded, let’s catch up on who will and won’t play for the Bulls. Jimmy Butler is back. He returned to the lineup Monday after missing 11 games with an elbow injury, dropping 19 on 6-of-20 shooting against Charlotte. Joakim Noah missed that game with "general soreness", but he’s expected to return tonight. All Chicago’s missing is Derrick Rose, who will soon be ready for contact practice, as they gear up to finally be healthy come playoff time.
For the Raptors, Kyle Lowry’s been talking like he’ll miss an extended period after re-aggravating his back injury in Detroit. That’s probably a good thing. Fifty wins and a three seed are well and good, but jeopardizing a playoff push by grinding Lowry isn't worth it.
So, what do you expect tonight? Something competitive, or do the Bulls simply have the Raptors number this year?