7 p.m., NBC Sports Chicago
Nikola Mirotic sustained a rib injury in the game against the Portland Trail Blazers on New Year’s Day (is that why he didn’t play down the stretch?). He said after the game that the injury was no big deal, but he’s listed as questionable for the game tonight for now.
Remarkably, the Raptors injury report is empty.
The Bulls have already suffered two losses at the claws of the Raptors this season, the first coming on opening night in an uninspiring 117-100 defeat, and the other coming three weeks later on Nov. 7 in a closer 119-114 loss.
In the first matchup, the Raptors shot the Bulls out of the building, burying 13 of their 29 attempts from 3-point land (44.8 percent) and shooting 47 percent overall. A 33-14 second quarter advantage proved the difference in this one, as the Raptors feasted on the Bulls second unit of Cristiano Felicio, Ryan Arcidiacono, Paul Zipser, Kay Felder, and Quincy Pondexter all of whom still had major roles on the team at that point in the season.
The second game between the two teams this season was the infamous #thereturn of Bobby Portis. He poured in 21 points and 13 rebounds to keep the Bulls competitive, but it wasn’t enough to neutralize DeMar DeRozan and his 24 points and Jonas Valanciunas and his 21 points.
In the two games against the Bulls this season, Valanciunas scored 44 points and collected 25 rebounds while shooting a scorching 62.5 percent from the field and 50 percent from the 3-point line. It’s another example of the Bulls struggling to guard stretch big men.
With the two wins coupled with a win at the end of last season, the Raptors now have their first three-game winning streak against the Chicago Bulls since 2009. It comes on the heels of an 11-game Bulls victory streak against the Raptors extending from Feb. 14, 2017 all the way back to Feb. 19, 2014. It was during this streak that the infamous trashtors hashtag was born.
Any notes that Raptors head coach Dwane Casey took from his last two victories against the Bulls need to be incinerated immediately, because those wins came in the pre-Nikola Mirotic era. The Bulls are a completely new team compared to what they were in November, and have won 10 of their last 14 games despite their current two-game losing streak in a pair of difficult losses against the Washington Wizards and Portland Trail Blazers respectively.
Lately, the Bulls have done a tour of some of the NBA’s best backcourts. On Sunday, Kris Dunn forced John Wall into an inefficient scoring night, although Bradley Beal erupted for 39 points. On Monday, the Bulls were fortunate to have Damian Lillard out with injury, but C.J. McCollum compensated with 32 points. Against the Raptors, the Bulls will have to deal with the two-headed monster of DeMar DeRozan (24.9 points per game) and Kyle Lowry (16.2 points per game).
There’s also always an extra layer of intrigue in matchups between the Bulls and Raptors now given what transpired between Serge Ibaka and Robin Lopez last season.
The best part of the video is that Lopez’s eyes bug out like Bobby Portis.
The Raptors also have young players in OG Anunoby and Delon Wright who are averaging about 20 minutes per game. Both players were on the Bulls draft radar coming out of college, and it’s always interesting to see what the Bulls did or didn’t miss out on.
So grab some popcorn, get a blanket, and cozy up for some Bulls basketball tonight because there’s honestly nothing else to do when the mercury in the thermometer will struggle to rise above zero degrees for the ten thousandth day in a row.
[Game previews open all month if you’d like to sign up! -yfbb]