A quick update from last night’s preview against the Miami Heat — Gary Trent Jr. is still on fire. Scorching. Blazing. Fuel-fed hot. With 5 straight games of 30+ points per game under his — probably — haute couture belt, the Toronto Raptors have found a bevy of ways to muster their strength behind his out-of-this-world-play and capitalize by going 4-1 over that stretch.
Tonight, the Raptors square off against the top-seeded team in the East in the Chicago Bulls, who are somehow staying afloat despite missing four of their best defenders. If their defense, which was shaky to begin with, is so decimated, then how are they doing it? Well, Chicago scores the hell out of the basketball and they are likely welcoming back noted Raptor-killer Zach LaVine back into the lineup. While the last 15-games have not been kind to their efficiency rating, Chicago still has the 4th ranked offense and 11th ranked Net Rtg.
The Efficiency Landscape. What Jumps Out? pic.twitter.com/L4sVVbIKPX— Kirk Goldsberry (@kirkgoldsberry) January 28, 2022
Really, it comes down to how Toronto can slow down the guy who knows them best, DeMar DeRozan, who, is having himself quite a string of games as well. Over the last 9-games, DeRozan is averaging 29.5/5.3/6.1 on 55/39/88 shooting splits. He’s gone to the line 70 teams over the last 9-games and, if history serves, he will punish the Raptors there again. Just ask OG.
DeMar on OG’s early foul trouble “I always tell him, even when we talk on the phone I tell him just stop fouling. I call him sometimes and tell him to stop fouling b/c I feel like he’s gonna foul me every time he just thinks about me. It was expected, it wasn’t no surprise” pic.twitter.com/UJupzzALQI— OG's Scarf (@OGsHeadband1) January 27, 2022
Can the Raptors keep a legitimate NBA MVP-ballot player in DeRozan in check enough to pull out a victory despite their incredibly heavy minute-count over the last forever-amount of games? Tune in to find out!
Where to Watch:
Sportsnet, 7:30 PM
Toronto — Fred VanVleet, Gary Trent Jr., OG Anunoby, Scottie Barnes, Pascal Siakam
Chicago — Ayo Dosunmu, Zach LaVine, DeMar DeRozan, Javonte Green, Nikola Vucevic
Toronto — Khem Birch (nose – out), Goran Dragic (not with the team – out)
Chicago — Lonzo Ball (knee – out), Alex Caruso (wrist – out), Derrick Jones Jr. (finger – out), Patrick Williams (wrist – out), Zach Lavine (back – probable)
Attack. Attack. Attack.
Here is an indisputable fact: Nikola Vucevic does not have the foot-speed to keep up with four out of the five Toronto Raptors’ starters. Chicago head coach Billy Donovan knows this, and Toronto will certainly see a healthy dose of Vucevic guarding Scottie Barnes. Barnes, bless his pure soul, isn’t the most fleet of foot, but he’s exceptionally crafty, especially for this stage of his career. This gives Toronto two options that both feature the same result: Run Scottie off of a ton of pick and rolls to get Vucevic guarding one of Pascal, OG, Gary or Freddy in space and/or, have Scottie initiating the offense from the onset, forcing Vucevic to guard the length of the floor.
Whichever option the Raptors elect to use, the goal should be the same: attack the rack. Chicago has no rim protection and their best ball stoppers and guard defenders are all sitting in street clothes. While the Raptors will be playing their 900th game in 925 nights, this is one they should win.
Gary goes for the record
Remember the 5-straight games from Gary that was mentioned at the top of the article? Well, that streak from Trent Jr. tied a Raptors-record belonging to none other than DeMar DeRozan. Can Trent Jr. continue his supernova-status and claim the record for himself against the man he shares it with? With confidence by the bundle, Raptors fans know he’ll, at the very least, be gunning for it.
Nick Nurse said after Tuesday’s win that he’s been intending to get Yuta Watanabe into games, it just hasn’t happened. Dalano Banton and Justin Champagnie played about 12 minutes total against Miami, leaving that heavy burden to seven guys once again.
The Raptors play again tomorrow night, their last of this four-games-in-five-nights stretch (and that triple OT game was just two days prior to this stretch). In other words, tired legs might be a real concern both tonight and tomorrow. Can Yuta get in the game tonight, and make an impact? If the 8-9-10 guys can soak up 20-22 minutes, that can mean a big difference for Trent, VanVleet, Siakam and Anunoby down the stretch. And if the past two weeks have taught us anything, it’s that these Raptors love to keep it close down the stretch!