(From the FanPosts. - Substitute Teacher TZ)
The Toronto Raptors have been a disappointment so far this season. They were a pretty popular choice to make some noise in the Eastern Conference after Chris Bosh jumped toward the top of the "Free Agent Class of 2010" with his stellar play in Beijing. They brought in Jermaine O’Neal to add some interior help, but he turned out to be who we thought he was: oft-injured and overpaid.
This has sparked all kinds of trade rumors for teams looking to exchange bad contracts (J.O. for Marion; J.O./+ for Noc/Hughes/+). O’Neal has become especially expendable for the Raps because of the recent play of Andrea Bargnani.
O’Neal has only seen time in 2 of the Raptors’ last 13 games, logging under 20 minutes in 2 recent games. That same 13 game stretch has been a breakthrough for Bargnani, who has been playing 35 to 40 minutes and averaging 19.7 ppg (including 31, 25 and 26 point games).
Bargnani had a great game (31 points) when the Bulls beat the Raps in Toronto just nine days ago. The Bulls pulled it out with a strong 4th quarter, which included Joa-Noah’s block of Bosh with the Bulls up 2 late in the game.
This game will seem to feature two glaring match up problems, one for each team. Toronto will create defensive problems for the Bulls with Bosh and Bargnani, possibly forcing VDN to play TT and Gooden to match up athletically and guard the perimeter.
The Bulls should overwhelm the Raptors backcourt. Calderon is looking to come back after missing 10 of the last 11 games, but will not be 100% with a sore hamstring. D-Rose should be able to take advantage of him (or his backups) with quickness off the dribble. Rose seems to have gotten over his "mini-slump" (last 5 games Pts/Asts looks like this – 25/10, 16/6, 12/9, 20/8, 13/4), but he has not been getting to the line (FTs over that stretch 1, 6, 0, 2, 0). Hopefully he can get to the basket and draw some fouls, but I think some of the problem is that he is so strong that little bumps do not knock him off his path when he’s in the air, so refs don’t give him the whistle (which should change over time).
I’m looking for big games from Rose, Gordon and Kirk in this one. Neither team is coming in hot as the Bulls are riding a 3 game skid and the Raptors have lost 7 straight. If the Bulls can contain the Raptors athletic front court out on the perimeter, we should be able to post a W.