The Toronto Raptors hit the road tonight against the Chicago Bulls, who are in the middle of an existential crisis, pressing the panic button right after their first game of the season, calling for an immediate town hall meeting.
The Raptors will be their guinea pig to see if their “players-only meeting” can get them on track for this season. A Raptors loss had been the last straw to push a team into a “players’-only meeting” (Just ask the Sacramento Kings and the Cleveland Cavaliers), so this could be a bit of a reverse psychology. Or maybe the Bulls are just in for a nightmare season.
According to NBA Matchup stats, OG Anunony held Wolves players to 3/19 FG in 71.8 partial possessions last night.— Keerthika Uthayakumar (@keerthikau) October 26, 2023
Anthony Edwards was held to 14 points on 5/22 FG after scoring 12 points on 5 shots in the first quarter. pic.twitter.com/8gbKXlRgKa
Kidding aside, the Bulls are going through a bit of an identity crisis. Like the Raptors, the Bulls talked about revamping their offense to have more ball movement and avoid stagnation through ISO ball. Well, it happened in the first half of their game against the OKC Thunder, but they reverted back in the second half. To make it worse, they were uninspired defensively, allowing the Thunder to shred their defense.
Can the Raptors take advantage of the Bulls’ bad start to the season and somewhat avenge their embarrassing loss to Diar and the Bulls in the Play-ins last season?
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)
Some light reading before tip off:
The Good Vibes are back
"They've been talking about an extension, but I'm told that the sides are apart right now on multiple fronts."@ShamsCharania on Demar DeRozan and the Chicago Bulls.@FanDuelTV pic.twitter.com/lt34MBFGOz— Run It Back (@RunItBackFDTV) October 26, 2023
While the product on the floor remains similar to last season’s (sloppy offense, subpar halfcourt execution, reliance in transition), the vibes — except for the front office and the ownership — are better. It starts with coach Darko Rajakovic, whose energy, encouragement, emotion, and genuine excitement for his team can be seen on the sidelines. The team appears to be bought in with the new coach and his offense, as they responded well based on the preseason and their first game, sticking to the new script. More importantly, the body language of the players is better.
Hey, that looks familiar!
Coach Rajakovic’s 0.5 offense aims to fix the selfishness and the clunky offense that plagued the Raptors last season, but based on the previous game, this task will be a work in progress for the foreseeable future. Rajakovic may have fixed the selfishness part, as the ball flowed for most of the game, unlike Nurse’s offense where the ball would stop in one area as any of the core players tried to go against a set defense using their individual skills. It’s extremely small sample size, but the Raptors passed the ball almost 40 times more than their average last season.
Unfortunately, the halfcourt set still looks rough for the most part, and the team had to rely on attacking in transition or using the early transition to get to their offense early and exploit crossmatches. The Raptors pushed the pace as often as possible, getting in transition almost half the time, even on misses.
Hey, this is different!
Aside from the team’s intent to keep the ball moving around, the Raptors are doing many things differently this season. The shot diet is different, with only two people appearing to have the license to shoot from the midrange. No, Pascal Siakam’s not one of them, as he’s only attempted one middy against the Timberwolves. It’s not an aberration, as Siakam only attempted one midrange shot during the preseason.
The gaps in the core players' minutes are good to see. Scottie should be the only one that exceeds 35 minutes, as he needs reps. Just gotta find a way to squeeze a couple of 4-5min shifts for Gradey. (pulled from https://t.co/FjWY9k7N32) pic.twitter.com/mKsuw0xu2c— JD Quirante (@jdkeyrants) October 27, 2023
Another different thing is the minutes distribution. Scottie Barnes was the only one who played for more than 35 minutes. Even Siakam, who’s averaged at least 37 minutes per game over the last two seasons, only had 34 points. More importantly, if you look at this rotation graphic, you can see that the core players are getting enough rest and not burned to the ground. Last season, O.G. Anunoby and Siakam could play the entire second half or could rest for three minutes but didn’t get any rest for the whole fourth period.