The postseason has arrived, and the Toronto Raptors are competing in the NBA Play-In tournament for the first time. Since they ended up placing ninth in the Eastern Conference, the Raptors will have to win two single elimination games in order to officially secure the 8th seed and play the Milwaukee Bucks in the first round.
First, they’ll play the Chicago Bulls and DeMar DeRozan tonight at home, and if they win, they’ll face the Miami Heat — who lost to the Atlanta Hawks in their first single elimination game on Tuesday despite a great performance from Kyle Lowry. If Chicago wins tonight, then they will face the Heat on Friday, so either way there are a lot of familiar faces in this Play-In tournament. The winner of the Friday night game will start their series against the Milwaukee Bucks on Sunday.
The Raptors’ immediate future must go through its past. pic.twitter.com/u3HOr98hEl— Chris Walder (@WalderSports) April 12, 2023
The Chicago Bulls finished the regular season in tenth place, with a record of 40-42. It was a turbulent season for them as well, with injuries effecting their lineup. Similar to the Raptors, the Bulls had trouble stringing more than three wins in a row and went on a losing streak midseason that did not help their record.
These two teams are really similar in terms of season stats, so it’ll be a pretty even match up. Plus, the pressure of the single elimination factor may bring out some superstar performances.
Match Up: Toronto Raptors (41-41) vs Chicago Bulls (40-42)
Time: 7:00 p.m.
Toronto: Fred VanVleet, Scottie Barnes, O.G. Anunoby, Pascal Siakam, Jakob Poeltl
Chicago: DeMar DeRozan, Nikola Vucevic, Patrick Beverly, Alex Caruso, Zach Lavine
Toronto: Otto Porter Jr. (OUT)
Chicago: Lonzo Ball (OUT), Justin Lewis (OUT)
One Last Ride
This could be (and probably is) the last game where the Raptors look as they do right now. With free agencies, contract disputes, and coaching change rumours looming, we could see a very different Raptors team come next season.
No one on the roster is really safe (except Scottie Barnes, really) and the roster will likely be changed following two disappointing seasons. To add a little more emotion, the last of the championship squad’s — Fred VanVleet, O.G. Anunoby, Pascal Siakam and Chris Boucher — futures are very uncertain.
If anything, enjoy this game and these players while you can.
On the other hand, there have been a ton of rumours that Nick Nurse will be out as head coach after this season. He currently as the top odds to take over the coaching position in Houston, and his comments over the past few weeks have not helped keep these rumours at bay. This could be his last game at the helm as well.
DeMar DeRozan, Toronto Legend
The Raptors were lucky enough to get home game advantage for this single elimination game, but it’s slightly less useful when the opposing team’s star player ALSO has some sort of home game advantage.
After being drafted to Toronto and playing here for years, DeMar is a household name when it comes to Raptors basketball. There will certainly be just as many DeRozan jerseys as there are current Raptors jerseys in Scotiabank Arena. Pair that with the fact that he can easily score 40 on any given night, the Raptors will need to contain him.
He averaged 24.5 points in the regular season, with a field goal percentage just over 50%.
Yet, Toronto fans know, DeMar doesn’t always show up under pressure. This could be an advantage that Raptors take on him, and expose that weakness.
Either DeRozan eliminates the raptors, or the raptors eliminate DeRozan. Then whoever advances gets to eliminate Lowry or get eliminated by Lowry. To find out if karma is real, tune into the eastern conference play-in— Noor (@noorrzainab) April 12, 2023
No matter what happens, this weeks’ games are going to be for the books. The end of an era approaches, but before that, we’ll have to look back and face some of the people who made Raptors basketball what it is today.
Catch the Raptors take on the Chicago Bulls in the Play-In Tournament tonight at 7:00p.m. ET.