Basketball is finally back and after another exciting playoff run in Toronto a season ago, the Raptors look to start off on the right foot against the already sad Chicago Bulls.
I don’t know what’s more exciting — the ball finally being tipped in Toronto, or the fact that I for once, don’t have to spend an entire paragraph talking about the Raptors curse against the Chicago Bulls.
It’s safe to say that the Raptors won’t lose 11-straight against this edition of the Bulls— potentially the worst roster assembled in Chicago since the conclusion of the Jordan era. That being said, as we saw on Tuesday, whether it’s a season-altering injury (prayers to Gordon Hayward) or a stunning come from behind victory — anything can happen on opening night and thus, the Raptors have got to be ready to go.
After trading away Jimmy Butler to Minnesota this off-season, the Bulls are probably slapping themselves — wait a minute.
In practice scuffle with Bobby Portis in Bulls practice, Nikola Mirotic suffered a fractured bone in his face, league source tells ESPN.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) October 17, 2017
Clearly things have gotten off to a shaky start in Chicago. And with an already extremely inexperienced lineup, the loss of both Mirotic and Portis (who was hit with an eight game suspension), it nearly makes tonight’s game, well... let’s just go get the win.
Where to Watch:
TSN4 at 7:30 pm
Raptors - Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, Norman Powell, Serge Ibaka, Jonas Valanciunas
Bulls - Jerian Grant, Justin Holiday, Paul Zipser, Lauri Markkanen, Robin Lopez
Raptors - Malcolm Miller?
Bulls - Nikola Mirotic (bruised face), Kriss Dunn (dislocated finger), Cameron Payne (foot surgery), Zach Lavine (sore knee)
We all remember Masai Ujiri’s words of condemnation after being swept out of the playoffs by the Cavaliers just a season ago. A “culture reset” was in order for a Raptors team that relied heavily on the individual talent of their star players and failed to embrace the philosophical changes being made around the league — shoot the three or die trying.
With the likes of Patrick Patterson, Cory Joseph, Terrence Ross and DeMarre Carroll now dispersed across the league, the Raptors have lost 346 of 725 converted three-pointers from a year ago — a rather steep number to supplant.
The Raptors attempted 24.3 triples per-game last season, ranking them 22nd across the Association. In their five pre-season games this year, they significantly upped that number to 41.3 attempts per-game — coincidence? I think not. It’s clear that the Raptors are trying to adapt, but what will become even more transparent over the course of the season, is if they have the personnel in place to make said adjustments.
The Raptors have a collection of athletic guards with the ability to blitz the paint and draw defenders, only to kick it out for an open three — a very simple, yet effective play. Watch them shred these very Chicago Bulls with this approach in their pre-season match last week, as rookie OG Anunoby shows flashes of his perimeter potential in the process.
4Q OG takeover last night.#WeTheNorth | @OAnunoby pic.twitter.com/2tR0GbzVpA— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) October 14, 2017
Another important component of knocking down the three is the ability to move the basketball quickly and efficiently — diametrically opposing traditional Raptors isolation basketball. Teams like the Warriors and Cavaliers of course are stacked with premier shooting talent, but their ball movement is equally superb, often resulting in open catch-and-shoot opportunities that have a greater chance of being converted.
Watch this masterful set as VanVleet slashes and kicks before retreating to his spot in the corner as C.J. miles uses his size to send a beautiful cross-court pass to Wright, who with no hesitation swings it to a wide open VanVleet in his spot for the wide-open look.
Drive— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) October 14, 2017
Protecting Home Court
The Raptors have a record of 13-9 in home openers, not too shabby for a team who’s first ever game saw the Flintstone family carry a giant egg out to center court over the tune of cheesy game show music as the crowd watched “the birth of The Raptor” before their eyes. If this is news to you, please, check it out for yourself and tell me those tracksuits are not to die for.
Anywho, it’s (unfortunately) 2017 now and the Raptors have done a solid job protecting their home court over the past several seasons, winning four straight home openers by an average margin of victory of 9.7 points.
Baby Dino Minutes
If the Raptors can come out flying and bury the Bulls early, this should allow Dwane Casey to give the younger guys some extra minutes and do some early season experimenting. We don’t exactly need the likes of DeRozan and Lowry to push their physical limits tonight, so let the young guns shine!
Raptors first round pick in this years draft, OG Anunoby, a 6’8’’ inch forward out of Indiana, showed flashes of serious potential throughout the pre-season. Anunoby is a seriously gifted athlete who still needs plenty of polish and against teams like the Bulls, should be able to get his minutes.
Jakob Poeltl, Pascal Siakam and VanVleet are all looking at their sophomore seasons as a chance to take that next big step. We saw a great deal of them throughout the pre-season and this trend will most likely continue all year, as the Raptors look to strike the balance between trying to win now as well as prepare for the future.