The Toronto Raptors are back on their home court after a 1-1 Texas trip, where tonight they’ll face DeMar DeRozan and the Chicago Bulls. but they’ll be doing so shorthanded: Pascal Siakam will miss tonight’s game, and the next several, with a strained right adductor muscle. He’ll be re-evaluated in two weeks.
If there’s good news though, it’s that Fred VanVleet will return after missing the past three games with a sore lower back.
The Bulls had Toronto’s number last season; Chicago won 3 of the 4 matchups, and the Raptors needed overtime to secure their lone win. DeRozan averaged 26.5 points against the Raps and Nikola Vucevic, 13.5 boards.
It’ll be interesting to see what kind of impact Christian Koloko can have on this game. Last season’s Raptors roster had no true big man to defend the rim or rebound, and Koloko has provided significant benefits as the backstopper. But Vucevic is a crafty rebounder and has the outside game to pull Koloko out of the paint. I would anticipate foul trouble for the rookie tonight!
As for DeMar, you know he’ll get to his stops and get defenders in the air on his pump fake — even O.G. Anunoby, who’ll likely get most of the assignment, and who should certainly know better than to fall for the fake! Before the game, Doug Smith asked Nick Nurse why DeMar’s head fake works so well, and all Nurse could say was — it’s damn good, and he couldn’t find a way to stop it in practice back in the day, and still doesn’t know how to stop it now.
Speaking of Anunoby, Siakam’s absence is another opportunity for him to step up. Last year when Siakam missed 11 games to start the season, O.G. averaged 20 points, 6 rebounds, 3 steals and 1.5 steals. And if he keeps creating transition opportunities, he’ll get those buckets with ease! O.G. has averaged 5+ steals over the last three games. He’s almost single-handedly fuelling one of the best transition offences in the NBA! Defensive player of the year? Yeah, I’d say he’s got a shot! I do hope that, even if he doesn’t get serious award consideration, he at least gets noticed. The lack of All-Defense love the past couple of years from U.S.-based media has been embarrassing.
As for the lineups tonight, Zach LaVine is out for for the Bulls, as he works his knee back into full health. For the Raptors, aside from the sidelined Siakam, Khem Birch is out, as he also rests a troublesome knee.
Where to watch:
Sportsnet 1, 6:00 PM ET
Toronto Raptors — Scottie Barnes, OG Anunoby, Gary Trent Jr., Christian Koloko, Fred VanVleet
Chicago Bulls — Ayo Dosunmu, Alex Caruso, DeMar DeRozan, Patrick Williams, Nikola Vucevic
Toronto Raptors — Khem Birch (knee – out), Pascal Siakam (groin – out)
Chicago Bulls — Lonzo Ball (knee – out), Andre Drummond (shoulder – out), Derrick Jones Jr. (thumb – probable), Zach LaVine (knee – out), Coby White (quadricep – out)