[Thanks to jrobulls for today's game preview. Inspired work. There are still some openings left this month if you're interested. And if you're interested in going to the actual games, use our partners if you want Chicago Bulls Tickets. And sorry about the headline -yfbb]
The lone team from Canada (with no Canadian citizens that I know of) comes to Chicago for their only visit to the United Center this year. The Raptors (29-48) are coming off a loss at Milwaukee on Saturday, while the Bulls (42-34) will try to come back after a loss against Detroit. With playoff seeding still on the line, a win would help Chicago close the gap to Brooklyn, who is currently the 4th seed 2 games up. Atlanta is just a game behind Chicago, currently occupying the 6th seed.
Now the million dollar question: Who will play? Based on KC’s Twitter account, not many:
Thibodeau said Noah, Rose, Hamilton, Deng, Gibson out vs. Raps. Belinelli in.— K.C Johnson (@KCJHoop) April 9, 2013
Well that's just great. That being said, let's concentrate on the game at hand.
The two teams played back in January, with the Bulls coming away with an OT win, courtesy of a jumper from Deng with 3 seconds left. Relive the glory below:
The Raptors have made a few changes since that game, most notably acquiring Rudy Gay from the Memphis Grizzlies. Let’s look at the probable starting 5:
PG – Kyle Lowry – The Raptors’ now-featured point guard (with Jose Calderon gone) is having a good year, averaging a career high in points, assists, and rebounds (11.8, 6.2, 4.7) despite having knee problems most of the year. He has not missed a game since January 30th, but his minutes can vary from game to game (ranging anywhere between 20-35 minutes) and with the end of the season looming, the Raptors might be more willing to put him on the bench sooner rather than later.
G/F – Rudy Gay – The former Memphis man has not let a trade to colder climates affect his game. He leads the Raptors in scoring (19.1 PPG) and is second on the team in rebounds (6.4 RPG). He attempts shots in bunches, and can be as hot/cold as any player can be. His last 4 point totals: 34, 6, 26, 4. In Milwaukee, he was 1-10 from the field, which probably means he goes 12-15 against the Bulls. Just our luck.
G/F – DeMar DeRozan - The former Taj Gibson teammate (at USC) is the second leading scorer on the Raptors (17.6 PPG) and seems to be a little more consistent than Rudy, shooting at a slightly higher percentage. It will be interesting to see what Bull Thibs puts on DeRozan/Gay. DeRozan is 6’7", while Gay is 6’8", and guarding their length will be the key issue. I’m assuming Kirk will play on Rudy and Jimmy will be on DeMar, but it’s going to be tough.
F/C – Amir Johnson – The Raptors leading rebounder is not a huge scorer, but still manages to average 9.9 PPG, 7.5 RBG. At 6’9", he’s not immensely tall, but is long enough to stand inside and just grab rebounds. With no Noah, he could feed on the boards tonight.
C – Jonas Valanciunas – My first reaction was: Who? Upon further review, my reaction is: This guy might be pretty good. Since Bargnani has been out the last month (and will miss the rest of the season) the 7-foot rookie from Lithuania has seen increased and sustained playing time and seems to be finding his way. He was named Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month, averaging 11.4 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.1 blocks while shooting 62% from the floor and 82% from the line. In a game against Washington last Wednesday, he went to the line 18 times, hitting 16 of those attempts.
Bench Players (Players who have played in last 2 games): Terrence Ross, Landry Fields, Sebastian Telfair, Quincy Acy, Alan Anderson, Aaron Gray
Bulls lineup: Not sure what the final starting 5 will be for the Bulls tonight, but it’s probably going to be the same lineup as it was against Detroit, sans Noah. So who is going to start in his place? Some signs point to Belinelli, but he looked pretty awful against Detroit.
Former Bull alert: Aaron Gray, John Lucas III - Will probably see Aaron Gray play, will probably not see JLIII play. Although seeing Nate and JLIII go at it might be somewhat entertaining.
Rose Watch 2013: Indifferent
Overall Outlook: Despite their record, the Raptors have a decent team, but have been nagged by injuries all year (sound familiar?) and have just played inconsistently. Their length is a definite advantage against the shorthanded Bulls. In a team that prides itself on rebounding, the Bulls will find it to be tough tonight. With playoff seeding on the line, the Bulls need a good start. With the Raptors looking forward to the Draft/Lottery and probably tanking, the starters may be pulled quicker than usual if they're behind by a fair margin. Last game: No Toronto starter played more than 26 minutes against Milwaukee. They lost by 17.
Game starts at 7 CST/8 EST on CSN Chicago.