The Bulls have been unlucky with injuries all year long and are finally getting healthy. The Raptors are heading into the opposite direction. Danny Green has been battling a back issue. Fred VanVleet hurt his shoulder after a nasty fall in the last game. Kyle Lowry and Jonas Valanciunas are still out with thumb and back injuries.
But the main story is how Chicago is finally getting back on track. After firing their head coach, having a player revolt, and giving their big summer signing a new role (a bunch of DNP-CDs), the Bulls have won three of their last five games. They got Lauri Markkanen and Kris Dunn back from injury, Wendell Carter Jr. is having an impressive rookie campaign, and Zach LaVine has become a consistent scoring option for them.
It wasn’t a great 48 hours for Toronto. The Raptors just lost a game in which they shot horribly, they lost the first seed to Milwaukee, and are 5-5 in their last 10. They return to Toronto after a three game road trip and look to forget the last one with a win tonight at home.
Here are the details for tonight’s contest.
Where to Watch:
TSN, 6:00 PM EST
Toronto – Delon Wright, Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard, Pascal Siakam, Serge Ibaka
Chicago – Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine, Justin Holiday, Lauri Markkanen, Wendell Carter Jr.
Toronto - Jonas Valanciunas (thumb - OUT), Kyle Lowry (back - OUT), Fred VanVleet (shoulder – day-to-day), Norman Powell (personal – day-to-day)
Chicago – Bobby Portis (ankle - out), Denzel Valentine (ankle – out)
A Different Bulls Squad
In the previous encounter, Chicago were without their top three players in Kris Dunn, Lauri Markkanen, and Zach LaVine. In 10 games this season, Dunn is putting up 13/6/5. Markkanen is posting 17 and 7 since his return from injury. LaVine — who signed a 4 year / $78 million extension over the summer — is averaging career highs across the board.
When these two teams faced off in November, the Bulls started Cameron Payne and Ryan Arcidiacono in the backcourt. Antonio Blakeney played 32 minutes and had 13 points on 19 shots. Yes, they’re professional players, but not ones you expect to save you from a 39 point blow-out loss at home. Raptors should expect the big names to play and play extended minutes this time.
Continue the Streak
The Bulls’ 11 game winning streak against the Raptors wasn’t so long ago. Etched in our minds is when Jimmy Butler scored 42 points (40 in the second half!) against the Raptors in Toronto. Or a year later in Chicago, when he scored 42 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. Eventually Toronto snapped that streak (in an overtime victory where Butler finished with 37) before starting a streak of their own.
Since the Butler trade, Toronto currently hold a 6-game winning streak against Chicago. When you look at this match-up on paper, this is what we see: a team with 26 wins in 37 games with a 13-4 record at home versus a team with 10 wins and half of those on the road. Toronto is coming off a blow-out loss in Orlando while Chicago came up with an impressive road victory in Washington. This should be an easy night for Toronto, but only if they bring the energy at home.
C.J. Miles and his shot has been missing and things aren’t looking good. He finished with 7 points on 1-of-9 shooting, including 0-of-5 from three. Its nearly the halfway point in the season and Miles is averaging 5.1 points per game and shooting an abysmal 27 percent from deep. With Norman Powell — playing back to his old level since his return from a shoulder injury — out against Orlando, that may have been the last chance to fight for minutes.
The Raptors are not the best perimeter shooting team in the league and Miles’ shooting is a big part of that. How long will this last? Miles is entering the second year of a three year contract and for someone considered a shooter, his next contract may not be there.