It has been a long time coming, but the Raptors have owned the Chicago Bulls this season. In what will be the fourth and final match-up between the two on Wednesday night, the Raptors have won the first three by a total of 31 points this season.
Historically, the Raptors are 36-48 versus the Bulls and 2-12 since the 2013-2014 season. Now, this isn’t the same Bulls team of the past. They traded All-Star guard Jimmy Butler this past summer and at the trade deadline they dealt 27-year-old Nikola Mirotic — the forward was averaging 16.8 points per game for the Bulls. However, they got a first round pick out of the deal as they continue a rebuild.
In terms of the Raptors-Bulls match-up, the 40-win Raptors (how nice is that to say pre- All-Star break) can’t take the 20-win Bulls lightly. Besides a 17-point win to begin the season over the Bulls, the two teams have had a couple tight battles. On November 7, the Raptors held on for a 119-114 win but almost blew it in the fourth quarter, and January 3, saw a 124-115 win for the Raptors but the Bulls kept it close for a majority of the game.
The Raptors are coming into this matchup on the backend of a back-to-back, in which they almost blew a lead to the Miami Heat in the late minutes. The three-point victory could’ve gone the other way as DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry struggled in the fourth shooting 1-for-8.
This season the Raptors are 4-4 on the second night of the unfriendly back-to-backs and with their history against the Bulls, Raptor fans might see another scare like they did versus the Heat. What is in the Raptors favour is their 23-2 record versus teams under .500 — this is a team that has been winning games versus the teams they should beat.
There’s no telling what will happen when the Raptors face the Bulls as history tells us it’s almost never pretty. However, this season hasn’t been like previous seasons for the Raptors has they go for a clean sweep of the Bulls.
Here are details for tonight’s game:
Where to Watch
Sportsnet One, 8:00 PM ET
Toronto – Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, OG Anunoby, Serge Ibaka, Jonas Valanciunas
Chicago – Zach LaVine, Jerian Grant, Justin Holiday, Lauri Markkanen, Robin Lopez
Toronto – none
Chicago – Cameron Payne (Right foot – OUT), Kris Dunn (Concussion protocol - PROBABLE)
Get in, Get out
Sure, the Raptors have a gorgeous looking record versus teams under .500, but at this point in the season everyone is looking ahead to the All-Star break. The Raptors won’t return from the break until Feb. 23, so you’d be naive to think the players aren’t already thinking about the week off.
Don’t get me wrong, the Raptors deserve the break. They already have the most wins at the break in franchise history, but the prize is to clinch the number one seed come playoff time. That being said, playing their second game in as many nights, the Raptors need to get on the Bulls early.
Playing back and forth basketball for the second night won’t help the Raptors and the quicker they build a lead the quicker they can go home. This is a young Bulls team, with no All-Stars, so they could careless about the break. They would love to knock down one of the best in the NBA, so don’t allow them to get that satisfaction early.
Simply, get in, build a lead, sustain it and get the heck out.
Young Bulls with Confidence
Zach LaVine has been back for the Bulls since early January and Kris Dunn is set to return Wednesday night. As the Bulls trend to get younger and retool, their young players are getting a chance to play and some of them are playing with confidence.
Lauri Markkanen, the 2017 seventh overall pick is a perfect example of playing with confidence. The 20-year old is averaging 15.3 points per game and in three games versus the Raptors, Markkanen is averaging 17 points.
The Raptors are young themselves, so this could turn into a game of youth versus youth when the Raptors bench comes into the game. For a majority of the season the Raptors bench has been able to lock opponents down defensively and they’ll need that to stop the Bulls youngsters.
Get everyone involved early
Just like getting on the Bulls early and needing the bench to step up, back-to-backs are no one’s friends so the Raptors will need everyone. Dwane Casey went with 11 guys versus Miami with Norman Powell playing the least amount of minutes at seven.
Don’t expect a tight rotation from Casey in this one. Although, the All-Star break is upon us it isn’t a time to go with a tighter lineup. Everyone will play and everyone needs to perform. Expect another 11-man effort and after that we can all use a little break.