The Toronto Raptors head into their first road game of the season tonight as they make a quick trip to Chicago to face the Bulls. It seems like just last week these teams where facing each other... oh wait because it was last week!
While the Raptors had an energetic start to their season, going 4-0 in the preseason and then winning their first game at home, the Chicago Bulls went 1-4 in their preseason and then lost their opener to the Oklahoma City Thunder. One of those losses came from the Raptors in another quick trip to Chicago.
Vibes were definitely different for these two teams on opening night. The Raptors team was energetic, together, and generally in good spirits after winning over the Minnesota Timberwolves. While it wasn’t the greatest basketball ever played, they stuck out the turbulence to get a win and the celebration after — both for their 1-0 start and for Coach Rajakovic’s win — was heard loud and clear.
The Bulls on the other hand had a different story. After losing their second play-in game back in the spring against the Miami Heat, the team has come into this season with a lot of questions. Lonzo Ball is still out indefinitely rehabbing from a knee injury. DeMar DeRozan is still that guy, but doesn’t have much help. After their (not even close) loss the other day to the Oklahoma City Thunder — a team that has a lot of young talent but is still a team you’d hope to win against — the players requested a “players only meeting.”
In basketball world, asking for a players only meeting is... not good. It shows there is already distrust in the locker room, that teammates have pent up frustrations they need to get out in a safer space, that chemistry may be on the rocks. To have that happen in a season at all is not good news. To have that happen on GAME ONE is... kinda unheard of.
The Raptors won that preseason game against the Bulls 106-102, and the game felt a little more like a regular season game. Still, it’s hard to think that in the same way the Bulls energy from game one isn’t going to help them much going into tonight’s game, that the Raptors good energy may boost them.
Here are the game details:
How to Watch:
TSN, at 8:00 p.m. ET
Toronto: Dennis Schroder, Pascal Siakam, O.G. Anunoby, Scottie Barnes, Jakob Poeltl
Chicago: DeMar DeRozan, Zach LaVine, Patrick Williams, Coby White, Nikola Vucevic
Toronto: Christian Koloko (respiratory)
Chicago: Lonzo Ball (knee)
So what can the Raptors do to ensure a good chance to win?
Wednesday night’s game was decent, not great. The defence was really good, but the offence left something to be desired. There seemed to be a bit a hesitancy, a bit of confusion, and a bit of messiness.
The Raptors will need to be quicker on offence tonight. While they have been thriving in transition, when they had the chance to set up an offence against Minnesota it seemed to lag on a little too long. This caused confusion among the players over where to go and what to do, and left them vulnerable to fumble the basketball or be stopped by the opposing team’s defensive efforts.
If they can communicate more on offence, continue that ball movement we’ve been hearing a lot of and starting to see in action, and make sure they are taking the best shots, the offence will look better.
DeMar loves playing his former team. His daughter also loves when her dad plays his former team. Not sure if Diar will be in attendance, but expect DeMar to want to put up some numbers tonight. There aren’t many of the same faces on the Raptors from when DeMar was around, but his connection to Toronto will never go away.
He’s also that guy for Chicago. He’ll need to pull out a huge show every night for them to stay in it, it seems. He played a team-high 33 minutes in their game against OKC, scoring 20 points, and that’s a low night for him.
Expect O.G. Anunoby to get that defensive match up.
Clean Up the Glass
One thing Coach Rajakovic mentioned after Wednesday’s game was that the team needed to improve their rebound action. They gave up too many rebounds total, but were also grabbed fewer defensive rebounds than Minnesota and still managed to win.
Minnesota was an extremely tall team, and maybe with a little bit of a smaller team in Chicago, this can improve.
Catch the Raptors try and win their first game on the road tonight at 8:00 p.m.