If the Raptors didn’t hit rock bottom after Sunday night’s collapse to the Detroit Pistons, then a loss tonight to the imploding Chicago Bulls would surely do the trick. But don’t fret, the Raptors have lost 10 straight to the Bulls, so it’s the law of averages — we’re due, am I right?
Although Kyle Lowry did not elect to delve into the specifics, this stretch of trying basketball dating back to the beginning of January has finally forced the three-time All-Star to speak out.
“We keep getting out into the same situations over and over and not being successful— somethings got to give, somethings got to change,” stated Lowry to the media on Sunday night.
There have been slight hints of success along the way, but for the most part, the Toronto Raptors have not been the same team since 2017 began. Sporting a 10-13 record, the Raptors sit in 21st overall and 10th in the Eastern Conference since January 1st.
The Bulls on the other hand are in a complete mess of their own -- I mean, at least the Raptors like each other (I think). After attempting to create the sequel to Mean Girls with their behavior on social media a couple of weeks ago, the Bulls have continued to be a shell of themselves. They have gone 10-11 in 2017 and have lost three straight games, including an embarrassing 28-point loss to the Timberwolves on Sunday afternoon.
Something has got to give as the Raptors have not beat the Bulls since New Year’s Eve 2013. Here are some key considerations for tonight’s match-up
Definitely No Longer “We the Fourth”
Remember how much fun it was watching Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan overpower teams late in games? Yeah, me neither. “We the Fourth” became a thing somewhere over the course of the past few seasons, but the Raps seem to have forgotten their self-adopted team mantra.
The Raptors have yet to win a 4th quarter in February and have lost a league high six games since January 1st when leading after three quarters of play. Considering that the Raptors sit exactly six games back of the top seeded Cleveland Cavaliers, that just plain sucks. Here is a look at the fourth quarter scoring for games so far in February:
- @ Boston— 32-19
- @ Orlando— 29-28
- @ Brooklyn— 32-28
- Vs LA Clippers— 29-21
- Vs Detroit— 36-19
- Overall— 158-115 for a differential of -43
They Can’t Shoot... So Shoot!
This one is simple: the Chicago Bulls are the worst three point shooting team in the league and it’s not even close. The Bulls rank last in both free throws attempted (20.3) and made (6.4) per game for a league worst click of 31%. It will be important for the Raptors to control their own paint and force the Bulls to attack from the perimeter.
The Bulls don’t have a single player shooting over 40% from three-point land as Doug McDermott’s 38% on just 3.3 attempts per game is the best that they have to offer. Lowry will be leaned upon heavily in this department as he has hit 177 threes this season, good for 4th in the NBA. It’s been a struggle as of late however since shooting 50% from deep in December and 40% in January, Lowry’s efficiency from beyond the arc has dipped down to 35% in February.
Make your Free Throws
Sounds easy enough right? Well, one of the Raptors’ strengths in free throw shooting has come around to bite them this month as their inability to convert their free throw attempts has cost them a few wins. The Raps average a league high 20.4 made free throws per game and shoot 80% from the line. This number has dipped in February however to 75% and they are averaging just 17.5 makes per game — 22nd in the NBA.
The Bulls also happen to find success at the free throw line, sitting fifth in makes with 19.4 per game at a rate of 79.6%. Again, it will be important for the Raps to keep the Bulls on the perimeter and force them to attack from a distance.
The inability to convert free throws consistently over the last five games has actually cost the Raptors a few games. The Raptors shot 17-of-25 from the line against the Pistons in a one point loss, 14-of-20 against the Timberwolves in a three point loss and a brutal 14-of-25 against Boston in a five point loss. Needless to say, free throws matter and I can guarantee this will be the case again tonight.
Where to Watch: TSN2, 8:00 pm EST