The rubber match of the season series between the Chicago Bulls and Toronto Raptors tips off tonight at the Air Canada Centre. Each team has won in the other’s building, and both games have been close. Chicago is highly motivated to win this game, as they are in a neck-and-neck struggle with Atlanta for the 5th playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Both teams would much rather face the vulnerable Brooklyn Nets than the formidable Indiana Pacers, who appear to be locked into the third slot. The Raps, long since eliminated from playoff consideration, have little team motivation. Our guys are playing for pride and next season’s jobs.
The Bulls are banged up, and are playing their second game in less than 24 hours after defeating New York in OT. The Raps can defeat this team if they:
- Control Jimmy Butler. Another entry in the words-I-never-dreamed-I’d-be-writing sweepstakes, Jimmy is shooting over 50% from beyond the arc in his last 12 games. He grabbed 14 boards against the Knicks.
- Run – then run some more. Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau seems to have discarded the concept of rotation while he waits for stars like Joakim Noah and Derrick Rose to return from injury. Three players clocked over 46(!) minutes in last night’s game. If Carlos Boozer, Kirk Hinrich and Butler aren’t bagged, they must be cyborgs. Jonas Valanciunas is listed as day to day following his neck injury in Chicago. His presence will be needed to keep the Bulls off the boards, and to start the fast-break offense.
- Play cautiously in the half-court. By that I mean: don’t look for steals on defense, and make sound passes when we’ve got the ball. The Bulls don’t turn over the ball, so taking chances is likely to backfire. They anticipate well on D, so risky passes are not wise, and may well be intercepted. If no fast break is available, the Raps will succeed if they move the ball (Rudy Gay – I’m looking at you), and take good shots at the end of the clock.