The Toronto Raptors return to Chicago for their third of four meetings with the banged-up Bulls. Each team has won in the other’s building, and it was the 99-77 triumph on December 14 which kicked off the Raps’ recent 4-1 road record. Only twice this month has Chicago scored 100 or more points, hardly surprising in the absence of Derrick Rose, who’s once again blown a knee gone and is gone indefinitely. If Luol Deng, who’s “questionable” doesn’t dress, Chicago’s offense will be further damaged. Jimmy Butler scored 26 last night against Memphis, but he’s not fully recovered from a lingering toe injury.
The Raps have been remarkably fortunate in staying healthy, and I was pleased to see coach Dwane Casey’s comments about cutting back DeMar DeRozan’s minutes slightly. Fatigue leads to overexertion, which results in injuries. The Raps can build up a solid lead against the offensively challenged Bulls (which should allow for early seats for our starters), if they:
- move the ball quickly in the half-court set. The Bulls will start Carlos Boozer, Mike Dunleavy and Kirk Hinrich, all of whom are slowed by age (and weren’t exactly speedy when they were young). If four Raps touch the ball on the perimeter, and the last one is Terrence Ross, he will have a lot of open looks.
- stay out of foul trouble. The Bulls should have considerable trouble getting their shots away against a committed Raps defense, but will attempt to compensate by getting our guys off their feet with ball and head fakes. If the Raps don’t bite, the Bulls won’t be heading to the charity stripe for easy points.
- get some offense from the second unit. While it was a substantial relief to see Greivis Vasquez finally make some 3-balls, the other guys like John Salmons, Tyler Hansbrough and Patrick Patterson need to get some buckets as well. Our first unit should be able to create a lead, but can the rotation players hold the fort?
The Raps are getting points from all the starters, and have closed out their recent games very well. Jonas Valanciunas should be able to do some serious damage against the smallish Bulls. I see no reason why the road-warrior trend can’t continue, and I pick the Raps to win 96-87.
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.
Remember, for the best deals on Toronto Raptors tickets for any game on the 2013-14 NBA schedule, visit our friends at TiqIQ.com.