We emerge, cautious at first, blinking in the bright sun, to absorb the sight before us: the end of the NBA preseason is nigh, and the start of the regular season is upon us. It is almost here, my friends. The Raptors just have to do one more thing: face off against their mortal enemies, the team that has put a hex on them for the past few years, the Chicago Bulls. And on Friday the gotdamn 13th no less!
We can acknowledge these are not the same Chicago Bulls. (Do you know how hard it was for me to find a decent header photo? The team has changed so much!) Jimmy Butler is gone, Doug McDermott is gone, even native son Dwyane Wade is gone. (Worry not, Paul Zipser is still on hand.) We can also recall that the Raptors actually won the last contest between these two teams. But nevertheless, the cursed feeling remains.
We bow our heads now and pray — and also read this preview to prepare for the matchup.
Where to Watch:
TSN2 at 8pm
Raptors - Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, Norman Powell, Serge Ibaka, Jonas Valanciunas
Bulls - Jerian Grant, Justin Holiday, Paul Zipser, Bobby Portis, Robin Lopez
Raptors - Malcolm Miller, poor guy.
Bulls - Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine, Nikola Mirotic, Cameron Payne, Quincy Pondexter — who isn’t injured on this team?
It’s been a few days now, but maybe you (like me) have not quite come down from the Raptors preseason performance on Tuesday night. Now, I’m obligated to mention it was a preseason contest against a half-dead Detroit Pistons team, but that doesn’t change the facts of what we saw. Folks, the Raptors looked very good and fun.
The question now is this: can the Raptors keep it up? And what is it? Well, for starters, it includes making the extra pass on the perimeter, as we saw when the ball found open shooters like C.J. Miles again and again; it includes seeing the short pass out of the pick-and-roll, as we saw a few times with Jonas Valanciunas; it includes passing out of double teams, as with the ones Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan will likely face this season. Most importantly, it includes everyone on the team buying in. And with 30 assists on Tuesday night, maybe everyone on the Raptors has bought in. Yes, yes, I know it’s only the preseason — but what else is this fake part of the season for, if not to believe the hype?
Euro Battle for the Ages
Jonas Valanciunas! Lauri Markkanen! Jakob Poeltl! Paul Zipser! In the interests of good taste, I will refrain from making some sort of World War II joke here. Still, an interesting mix of talent and style from the Old Country will take the floor tonight.
Only some of these players will face off against each other though. Valanciunas will likely have his hands full with the Bulls’ Robin Lopez for a chunk of the night, and Zipser is more of a small forward. I’ve listed Portis as the starter, but who knows — maybe the Bulls will try a twin towers approach and put Lauri in to start at power forward. As you’ll recall, Markkanen comes to Chicago fresh off a dominate EuroBasket performance; the young Finn has talent. And finally how will young Jak fare? Other big men abound in this Bulls-Raptors matchup, but I’m intrigued to see how this quartet stacks up.
Please Just Don’t Get Injured
There’s no third thing here. Just get this game done safely. The Bulls recently saw Nikola Mirotic go down with a day-to-day ankle injury, and they’re already dealing with a pile of injures. There’s no telling who could be next. I don’t mean to end things on such an ominous note, but when you’re dealing with Chicago, and the final game of the preseason, it’s best to be cautious. The Raptors are healthy right now and the goal should be to keep it that way.
Win, lose — let’s just make it to October 19th in one piece.