Raptors [25-10] at Bulls [13-24]: Preview & 3 keys to victory

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 13: Jonas Valanciunas
CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 13: Jonas Valanciunas /

The Raptors begin a 3-game road trip in Chicago. The Bulls have recently turned into a formidable opponent, and Toronto will have its hands full grabbing a win.

The Chicago Bulls have turned their season around. Even though they have dropped their last two games, the last in OT, their record has improved dramatically recently. The return of Nikola Mirotic has provided a jolt to their offense without harming them defensively. After 23 games, they had 3 wins, and those lottery ping-pong balls were looming large in their future. Since then, they are 10-4, with Niko averaging 18.3 points Per Game [PG] and boasting a PER of 24.3. That would rank him eleventh in the NBA if he had enough minutes to qualify.

The Raptors have beaten the Bulls twice already, both times at the Air Canada Centre. However, the second win was a scary one, as Toronto nearly frittered away a 20-point halftime lead.

The Bulls’ second- and third-highest scorers, Kris Dunn and Laurie Markkanen, both arrived as a result of Jimmy Butler being moved to the Minnesota Timberwolves in the off-season. Dunn has made giant steps in his sophomore season in both scoring and assists. He’s like a more refined version of Delon Wright.

Markkanen isn’t like many others. He’s what Steve Novak might have been had Novak been able to put the ball on the floor effectively, and battle successfully on the boards. The 20-year-old Finnish rookie shows every sign of being a presence in this league for years.

While Justin Holiday, a decent shooter, is listed as SG, I question whether he will get the assignment to shut down DeMar DeRozan. Coach Fred Hoiberg is more likely to switch Denzel Valentine onto DD. Valentine can make shots, though he’s not as likely to shut down DD as Andre Roberson or Wesley Mathews.

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Robin Lopez is Brook’s twin brother, and equally forbidding physically and on defense. However, Robin doesn’t approach Brook’s offensive skills. Jonas Valanciunas will have a tussle on his hands when he tries to score down low.

The Bulls’ bench features Bobby Portis, he of the one-punch-fight infamy. The young power forward can shoot and rebound. They don’t have any instant offense providers.

3 keys to Raptors victory

  1. Pound their second unit. Norman Powell didn’t get off the bench against the Bucks. I hope we can see him make some shots from deep, and finish at the hoop. Pascal Siakam has been making opponents pay from the free-throw line; I wish we could say the same about Jakob Poeltl.
  2. Keep your hands to yourself on D. The Bulls are tied for 28th with a mere 18 free-throw attempts PG. They don’t need any help.
  3. Attack the basket. Chicago ranks second from the bottom in blocked shots, a stat I pay a lot of attention to because it often shows a lack of paint protection.


The Raptors came out on top in a slugfest against the Bucks. This game is likely to follow the same pattern, with neither team able to build up a big lead. Our team’s depth should tip the balance, as our rotation people will keep the score tight. DeMar and Kyle Lowry can return fresh for the game’s final eight minutes or so, and get the victory.

Toronto 109 – Chicago 104