The Toronto Raptors have little time to enjoy their win over Philly, as they hit the floor against the injury-plagued Bulls. [20-second timeout: in an odd quirk of cross-sport scheduling, the NHL's Chicago Blackhawks face the Maple Leafs in Toronto tonight, assuming strikers picketing the Air Canada Centre allow workers to enter the building.] Shooting guard Jimmy Butler returned to action last night for the Bulls after missing 11 games with a toe injury and helped them grab a one-point victory in Milwaukee; however, Luol Deng is day-to-day and Derrick Rose is toast for another season.
Chicago still retains the services of proud, talented and aggressive ballers like Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer, while veterans Kirk Hinrich and Mike Dunleavy keep the Bulls in every game. The Bulls have struggled mightily to put up points since Rose blew out his knee. Before the victory over the Bucks, Chicago hadn’t gotten out of the 70s in three straight games; not surprisingly, all were losses.
Without Rudy Gay, the Raps have won 2 of 3 games, and can grab another one in the Windy City if they:
- keep Joakim Noah off the offensive boards. The hyper-active Noah is a master of positioning and timing, and has built a career on tipping in missed shots. Jonas Valanciunas will need to be aware of him always, and box him out, with the hope that Amir Johnson or Tyler Hansbrough will clean the glass.
- go right at Kirk Hinrich on offense. Hinrich starts at point guard, and he’s a capable distributor of the ball, but has lost a step defensively. I’d like to see Kyle Lowry dribble right by Hinrich into the paint to score or dish, while Greivis Vasquez can use his unusual height (for the position) to shoot over him.
- use the new-found bench strength to our advantage. Chicago’s signing of D.J. Augustin, who was cut loose by the Raps, is a clear indicator of how short the Bulls are of second-unit talent. I hope Chuck Hayes is dressed, and gets in the game. He’s a veteran who will help on defense with his rebounding and ability to start the fast break. Hansbrough’s return to action last night was inconsequential, but he can be an impact player against Chicago, as can Patrick Patterson.
A recharged Raptors squad can and should find a way to beat scuffling Chicago. How about 95-88 Toronto?
Brian Boake is Senior Editor for Raptors Rapture. “Like” Raptors Rapture on Facebook and follow us on twitter @RaptorsRapture for all the latest news and updates about the best damn NBA team from Canada.
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