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Raptors and Bulls face off in Toronto: Preview, start time, and more

Toronto looks to get back in the win column Tuesday night, hosting a Bulls team that’s lost six of their last eight games.

NBA: Chicago Bulls at Toronto Raptors Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

The Toronto Raptors have hit somewhat of a snag since the all-star break, and the next three games — beginning with Tuesday’s tilt with Chicago — provide the perfect opportunity to taste some success.

The Raptors will host Chicago tonight, head to New York to take on the Knicks, before finishing the week in Chicago to wrap up the season series with the Bulls. The two teams have a combined record of 35-113 this season.

The Raptors — who have gone 8-7 in fifteen games since Februrary 22nd — lost the chance to win 60 games after Jeremy Lamb drilled a 48-foot desperation heave at the buzzer to give the Charlotte Hornets a last-second victory over Toronto, nullifying the fourth-quarter comeback that the Raptors had assembled.

All is well though in Toronto, for now. They still hold a 3.5 game lead over the 76ers for possession of the 2-seed, and thanks to their 3-1 season series win over Philadelphia, they too own the tiebreaker. Despite the record not reflecting the level at which the Raptors are currently playing with, there is a general sense of calm heading into the postseason, perhaps due to the fact that the team is currently fully healthy for the first time all season.

Here are the details for tonight’s game:

Where to Watch:

TSN, 7:30 p.m.

Lineups:

Toronto — Kyle Lowry, Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard, Pascal Siakam, Marc Gasol

Chicago — Kris Dunn, Shaquille Harrison, Antonio Blakeney, Laurri Markkanen, Robin Lopez

Injuries:

Toronto — none

Chicago —Wendell Carter (out — thumb), Denzel Valentine (out — ankle), Zach LaVine (questionable — thigh), Otto Porter (questionable — shoulder)

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Where’s the Consistency?

Despite the Raptors handing in some of their best, most complete performances of the season over the last 15 games, they’ve failed to string together these performances for more than a few games in a row.

Chalk it up to Serge Ibaka missing three games in this stretch, chalk it up to Kyle Lowry’s injury, or the adjustment period of Jeremy Lin and Marc Gasol — whatever the case was, the Raptors have no reason not to end the season on a high note.

Everybody is healthy — meaning the Raptors run two deep at each position — and Nick Nurse is looking to further shrink the rotation to just the players that expect to see playing time in the postseason over the course of the Raptors’ remaining eight games. The consistency may not have been with the team through March, but now is the best time to regain traction and end the season strong.

The Raptors are Blistering from Deep

It’s no secret that Toronto’s offense is generating more open looks since the Marc Gasol trade, and this is shown in the Raptors average threes made per game and assist rate in 18 games with Marc Gasol since February 9th.

In that 18 game sample — a significant size — the Raptors are averaging 13.8 threes made per game, and 27.2 assists per game. Over the course of the entire season, these figures would rank 2nd-best in both categories — behind the Houston Rockets (3PM) and Golden State Warriors (assists per/gm).

Not only are the Raptors knocking down 13.8 threes per game, they’re doing so on much higher efficiency (.402) than their season average of .348. Trying to identify the reason why the Raptors are barely .500 over their last 15 games is a real challenge given these types of periphery numbers. I’ll attribute it to new players trying to assimilate into a new team — meaning the best times are still ahead of us.

The Significant Play of Pascal Siakam

Siakam has been a sensation all season long — there is no doubt in his candidacy for Most Improved Player this year. But in 12 total games through March, he’s reached yet another plateau in performance. Averaging 35.2 minutes per game, Siakam is scoring 19.7 points, with 6.5 rebounds and 4.3 assists.

When Kyle Lowry was down with injury last week, Nick Nurse often featured him as a point guard-type leader of bench units, a role which he either broke-even or excelled in. Should Siakam continue this hot streak into the playoffs, the Raptors could have a legitimate “big three” in the making. As the team’s most consistent performer this year, he’s undoubtedly the face of Toronto’s future.