[Thanks to wjb1492 for today's game thread. -Matt]
Chicago gets Toronto on the second night of a back-to-back. Will this be win #2?
The Bulls' early season difficulties have been quite thoroughly hashed and rehashed, both here and in the papers. The most recent outing, however, saw the Bulls grab their first victory of the season, a 97-93 win over the Detroit Pistons. Tyrus (19 points, 14 rebounds) was incredible, and finally got some well-deserved positive press (although not from Sam Smith). Luol (17 points) looked more like his last-year self for much of the game, and Kirk (14 assists) found a way to both stay on the floor and involved in the game even while his shooting touch is still off. The bench, led by Joe Smith, outscored the Pistons' bench 31-13. Ben Wallace (6 points, 7 rebounds) even contributed by sitting out the fourth quarter, quite graciously as it turns out. All in all, it was the first really solid effort from the Bulls collectively, and I'm sure we all expect to see more of the same from them tonight.
The Toronto Raptors have had some problems of their own. After two wins to start their season (Philadelphia and a 106-69 blowout of the Nets in NJ), the Raptors lost the next three (Boston, @ Milwaukee, and Orlando) before righting the ship with a slim 105-103 victory over Philadelphia last night. Bargnani is now coming off the bench to increase his offensive opportunities. After the 19 points (3-7 from 3) he dropped on the Bulls in the preseason, I'm pretty sure the last thing we want to see is more offensive output from him. The move also puts Rasho Nesterovic back in the starting lineup to bring more defense to the first unit. Toronto did get back to winning following this lineup shift, but the big difference in last night's game was Anthony Parker shaking off a three game slump to score 22 points. Raptor's star Chris Bosh has struggled from the field, shooting less than .400 for the season so far, but has attempted 14 and 18 free throws in their last two games respectively and is hitting 92.3% of his free throws so far.
This should be a fun game. Both teams have high expectations for the season, and both have been disappointed with their season so far. However, both are coming off of wins earned in pretty comptetitive games. The teams split 4 games last season, each winning once at home and once on the road. I say the better rested, home team gets the win tonight, providing a positive jump off into this year's version of the annual circus trip for the Bulls. Heck, I'm even going to go out on a limb and predict that the Bulls score an actual field goal in the final 4 minutes of the game tonight!