I know, the last remaining sliver of optimism left in your body is telling you to hold out hope. Anything can happen in an NBA game, right? It doesn't matter that the Raptors come in as winners of nine of their last eleven games, featuring victories over the Hawks, Heat, and Cavaliers. It doesn't matter that the Bulls come in as losers of twelve of their last eighteen games, featuring losses to the Jazz, Timberwolves, and Magic. It doesn't matter that Derrick Rose is playing some of the most efficient basketball of his career. It doesn't matter E'Twaun Moore is fast becoming the Bulls' second M2GWCDAS. It doesn't matter that all signs point to the Bulls' (paraphrasing) "free agent sploosh-enducing playoff streak" ending this season.
And you'd be right, it doesn't matter. In fact, none of it matters. Put simply:
But managerial calamity aside, none of it matters because this is one of the most snake-bitten Bulls teams in recent memory. Let's briefly recap, shall we? Pau Gasol is out tonight with a knee injury and is slotted to at least miss the next two games. Jimmy Butler, though indications are he will play, will be on a minutes restriction plan of sorts for the remainder of the regular season. It will be interesting to see how closely Fred Hoiberg sticks to this as Butler leads the league in minutes played and finds himself in a stretch where most of the roster's talent is unavailable. Moving along, Derrick Rose is questionable with a groin issue, and Mike Dunleavy is also questionable as he battles an illness. So if you're keeping score at home, that's three out of five starters that could potentially be out of the Bulls' lineup tonight, and a late scratch of Butler (heaven forbid) could bump that number up to four. You also may have heard Joakim Noah has been out since mid-January.
Despite all this, if you subscribe to the belief that Pau Gasol hurts this team far more than he helps it, you may have convinced yourself that his absence tonight gives the Bulls a fighting chance. However, Gasol has been instrumental to the success of the Bulls against the Raptors this season, and his absence is certainly going to be felt on at least the offensive end. In three games versus Toronto this season, Gasol is averaging a line of 19.7/10.3/6.0/2.7 pts/rebs/asts/blks per game on 45.7% shooting from the field. Complain about his defensive effectiveness all you want, but Gasol's consistent presence in the Bulls' games over the last two seasons (he's played in all but seven of 146 possible regular season contests) almost guarantees a drop-off in both performance and comfort level for the Bulls tonight.
And, oh yeah, the Raptors have rounded out into one of the best offensive teams in the league (by rating) despite playing a pace that ties for second slowest in the NBA (where you at, Sam Smith?). Conversely, the Bulls still haven't figured out anything on the scoring end, and anyone that has followed this team for even half of the season knows that this defense couldn't stop a sloth with turtle legs from getting to the rim.
This is going to be a loss. I don't know how bad it will be and I don't know how hard the Bulls will battle against their opponents, but what I do know is that there is far too much negativity around the team and far too many injuries tonight to even consider victory a possibility. Then again, the Memphis Grizzlies are certainly disproving that theory right now, and the Bulls have made me look stupid for declaring losses in the past, so who knows? Or cares. It doesn't matter. #FireGarPax
Tip is at 7:30 ET, 6:30 CT on Comcast SportsNetwork, but no one is making you watch. DeMarre Carroll is still out with a knee injury, but that doesn't really have any bearing on the recent play of the Raptors.