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Preview: Toronto Raptors vs Chicago Bulls — DeRozan back in town as Raptors look to start fresh

One day after beating Raptors legend Kyle Lowry on home court, Toronto hosts another in DeMar DeRozan and the Bulls.

Toronto Raptors v Chicago Bulls Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Raptors legend DeMar DeRozan is back in Toronto tonight for the second time this season as the Chicago Bulls visit Scotiabank Arena tonight.

Season ticket holders have been treated to back to back nights of Raptors legends returning, as Kyle Lowry and the Miami Heat were in town last night in the loss.

While there are many basketball storylines surrounding Toronto’s win last night, the one that is greater than basketball shines through. Golden State Warriors’ assistant coach Dejan Milojević tragically and suddenly passed away on Wednesday morning. A friend and colleague of both Raptors head coach Darko Rajakovic and assistant coach Jama Mahlalela, the scenes in the locker room following the Raptors win over the Heat were quite emotional and touching.

DeMar’s return and continuing to build after moving on from Pascal Siakam will surely be part of the story in the media, but coming only one day after Milojević’s tragic passing, Rajakovic and his Raptors will be playing for Decky again tonight.

How to Watch:

Sportsnet at 7:30 p.m. ET

Lineups:

Toronto: Immanuel Quickley, Gary Trent Jr., RJ Barrett, Scottie Barnes, Jontay Porter

Chicago: Coby White, Alex Caruso, Zach LaVine, DeMar DeRozan, Nikola Vucevic

Injuries:

Toronto: Christian Koloko (out - not with team), Jakob Poeltl (out - ankle), Otto Porter Jr. (out - knee)

Chicago: Lonzo Ball (out - knee), Torrey Craig (out - foot), Ayo Dosunmo (questionable - shoulder), Andre Drummond (probable - back), Dalen Terry (probable - knee), Patrick Williams (questionable - ankle)

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Pick Up Where You Left Off

Rajakovic will be running back the same starting lineup post-Pascal Siakam trade, and one that came to play right from tip-off. The Raptors went up 41-18 over Miami in the first quarter and never looked back the rest of the game.

We’ve seen these two teams mount some large comebacks against the other, notably the Bulls comeback against Toronto in the play-in game last April. Either way, gaining an early lead has been tough to do for the Raptors this season, so being in the drivers seat early as they were last night will be key in looking to pick up their second win in a row.

StaRJ and GTJ

Both listed as shooting guards, RJ Barrett and Gary Trent Jr. had themselves a game last night, scoring 26 and 28 points respectively.

Barrett was already a revelation, averaging roughly 20 points since joining the Raptors despite only being the third scoring option behind Scottie Barnes and Siakam. Increasing his role to the second and sometimes first option, with Barnes taking more of a playmaking role, has only increased his production.

The same can be said for Gary Trent Jr., who many Raptors fans thought would be their sixth man and in contention for the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year award. Instead, GTJ is showing his capabilities as a starter. Averaging only 11.7 points on the season, Trent Jr. is averaging 16.8 points as a starter this season, with 28 points last night and 24 in his last start against Detroit in December.

While Alex Caruso is one of the league’s top defenders, he can only guard one of the two Raptors guards at once. Outside of Caruso, Chicago is not much known for its perimeter defence, so the pair may go off for a big night once again.

Bigs Still a Concern

Toronto was able to manage Miami last night, as Bam Adebayo is somewhat of an undersized big height-wise, however Nikola Vucevic and Andre Drummond may prove more of an issue matchup-wise.

Vucevic has been known a stretch big throughout his career, but is shooting worse than 30% from three this season. Keeping the Montenegrin centre from getting hot shooting wise will improve the Raptors chances.

The other issue at centre that Chicago poses is multi-time rebounding champ Andre Drummond. Listed as probable for tonight, Toronto simply does not have anyone capable of battling down low with the 6’11”, 280 pound big. Jontay Porter again played less than 20 minutes in his start last night, but may see a sizeable uptick to match up against Chicago’s bigs.