There was a time this season when the Bulls were doing alright. If you looked at their box scores during February — when they went 5-5 — you would see Lauri Markkanen and Otto Porter Jr. playing well. That is not longer the case. Both players are expected to be out for the season with injury, with Markkanen being the most recent to get shut down, from fatigue related issues.
What promised to be a reasonably fun game a month ago has turned into one of the least anticipated games of the season. The Raptors can’t complain, of course. They are coming off back-to-back blowout victories and have found a groove distributing minutes. No player has played more than 31 minutes in the past two games, which may be how Nick Nurse decides to play out the season. The Raptors are good. The Bulls are bad. There isn’t a whole lot left other than jokes.
Prediction: Jim Boylen receives his second technical of the night for arguing an out-of-bounds call. Instead of going back to the locker room, he huddles the team together for a quick timeout.
Here are your details for tonight’s game.
Where to Watch:
TSN, 8:00 p.m.
Toronto — Kyle Lowry, Fred VanVleet, Danny Green, Pascal Siakam, Marc Gasol
Chicago — Shaquille Harrison, Antonio Blakeney, Wayne Selden Jr., Brandon Sampson, Robin Lopez
Toronto — Kawhi Leonard (out — personal reasons), OG Anunoby (out — concussion-like symptoms),
Chicago — Otto Porter Jr. (out — shoulder), Lauri Markkanen (out — fatigue), Wendell Carter Jr. (out — thumb), Kris Dunn (out — back), Denzel Valentine (out — ankle), Chandler Hutchison (out — toe), Zach LaVine (doubtful — thigh)
The Bulls starting lineup is… er… bad. Most of the starters, like Shaquille Harrison and Wayne Selden Jr., slot in as a 8th or 9th man on a good team. The team’s most competent player is likely Robin Lopez (which is probably a bad idea). Jim Boylen will his work cut out for him tonight, with a thinned-out roster no less.
One last bit of intrigue for the Bulls: they have Rawle Alkins. You might remember Alkins from his time with the Raptors Summer League team. He signed a two-way contract with the Chicago Bulls before the season, and is starting to play real minutes with the team. In a season high 16 minutes versus the Blazers on Wednesday, he had two points, three rebounds, and two assists. Hopefully he gets some run tonight.
The Schedule is Turning
Playing the Bulls two times in one week is not as fun as I would have anticipated before the season. The Bulls are worse right now than your usual bad team. They are 2-8 in their last ten games and boast a starting lineup full of young and unproven players. They don’t present much of challenge. It’s in games like these that Nick Nurse tries to spread the minutes around, keeping everyone fresh.
Luckily (for competitions sake) the Raptors schedule will get tougher. They are set to play the red-hot Orlando Magic and always dangerous Brooklyn Nets next week. An easy schedule is always welcome, but the Raptors might want to get their juices going in preparation for the playoffs.
Jeremy Lin, Finding Momentum
Jeremy Lin has not got off to the start he wanted in a Raptors uniform. The chemistry fit — along with poor shooting — have made for a tough start. Some recent play has been encouraging though. Thursday versus the Knicks, he scored 12 points on 4-of-8 shooting, with five assists. The stat line may not jump out but he was effective driving to the rim in the second half, finishing some tough lefty layups.
If he can consistently get to the rim and make the right reads, there may be a role for him to work towards. No other point guard on the roster is especially slithery getting to the rim. Kyle Lowry doesn’t go downhill into the paint like he used to and Fred VanVleet, while a smart finisher, doesn’t present the same reckless abandon that Lin does at the rim. There will be minutes available for Lin tonight versus the Bulls. A good game would make it two in a row.