Coming off a rocky victory over the Heat where the Raptors seemed to take control of a close game in the third quarter only to do their very best to choke it away in the fourth, Toronto heads into Chicago to face the Bulls. Chicago is bad, but maybe not quite as bad as they look — after a 3-20 start to the season, they’ve managed a 17-16 mark since Dec 8. In other words, they’re winning just enough games to make their fans despair about landing the top pick in the lottery. Of course, much of that improvement was spurred by the play of the since-departed Nikola Mirotic, but other contributors — most notably the jewels of the Jimmy Butler trade, Lauri Markkanen and Zach LaVine — have developed over the course of the year.
Chicago is coming off an exciting win on Monday that featured a big game from Markkanen and a last-minute dunk from LaVine. (But it came against the similarly-pathetic Magic, so take that for what it’s worth.) Kris Dunn, the other Butler piece, has cleared concussion protocol and may return tonight after an 10-game absence.
Per Bulls PR: Point guard Kris Dunn is now probable for tomorrow's game.— Daniel Greenberg (@ChiSportUpdates) February 14, 2018
For the second straight game, the Raptors will face a former Serge Ibaka antagonist — last night it was James Johnson and tonight it’s Robin Lopez. Between Lopez battling Jonas Valanciunas in the paint and the young guys threatening from the perimeter, the Bulls have just enough firepower to catch a distracted Raptors team by surprise.
The key to this one will be making sure that no-one’s already thinking ahead to All-Star break. Road back-to-backs are tough in the NBA, and could be even tougher if players’ heads are already in Cabo or Los Angeles. The Raps will need to show up, focus, and give a professional effort to pull out a game that looks eminently winnable on paper and sweep the season series against a long-time boogeyman.
With Chicago being in the central time zone, remember that it’s a bit of a late start for this one. (Oh, and since this game is happening on February 14, look for Denzel Valentine to have a big game.)
Check out the full Raptors-Bulls preview from Satbir Singh here.
Where to Watch:
Sportsnet One, 8 PM ET
Chicago – Kris Dunn (if active), Zach LaVine, Justin Holiday, Lauri Markkanen, Robin Lopez
Toronto - none
Chicago - Dunn (probable), Cameron Payne