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Despite being one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference in recent years, the Toronto Raptors just can’t seem to get past the Chicago Bulls. It’s a very strange trend considering the Raptors have risen from the North as the best threat to LeBron and the Cavaliers, while the Bulls find themselves barely in the playoff race. Despite that, Chicago always finds a different gear when playing Toronto. It’s been that way for the past two seasons, with the Bulls winning the past nine games between these two teams.
The winning streak has been bizarre as Chicago usually has no business winning these games. But somehow they always do. One of the Chicago wins last year produced one of the best BaB recaps ever.
The Raptors currently hold a record of 24-11, good for second in the conference and 3 games behind Cleveland. Toronto just came back from a road trip out West were they dropped games against teams they should have beaten (Suns) and got blown out against the better ones (Warriors and Spurs). After going 3-3 on the trip, the Raptors came back home and beat the Utah Jazz 101-93. Right after this game tonight, Toronto travels to Texas to face the Houston Rockets on the second night of a back to back.
A lot of Toronto’s offense comes from their All-Star worthy backcourt of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. Both average over 20 points per game and are the guys who can certainly get the Raptors out of an offensive rut with their excellent shooting. The duo average 36.2 field goal attempts per game so it would be very wise for the Bulls to try and focus on them defensively. Force the other players to beat you instead of Lowry and DeRozan. It will be hard, but with good perimeter defenders in MCW and Jimmy Butler, the Bulls could be up to the task.
One big trend to look for tonight is the battle of the boards. Chicago is the best in the NBA in rebounds per game (47.5). With Robin Lopez, Taj Gibson, Cristiano Felicio, and their assortment of guards crashing the glass, Chicago can turn this game into a grind-it-out one. Luckily for them, Toronto is in the bottom 10 of rebounding teams, sitting 23rd in rebounds per game. If there is a method for Chicago to win this game, it comes with crashing the glass.
The Raptors are 3rd in the NBA in terms of points per game (111.0) and Chicago will have to lock in defensively and that includes making sure there are no second chance points available. They can’t allow a team that shoots 46.7% from the field as a team to get more opportunities to score.
Both teams are coming into his game healthy. Chicago has everyone healthy and despite dealing with knee soreness, Dwyane Wade will probably play. For Toronto, Lowry turned his ankle against Utah but he is expected to play as well.
Game time: 7PM CT