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Bulls vs. Raptors preview and open thread

Another tough Eastern Conference test for Chicago as the top seed visits the United Center

NBA: Detroit Pistons at Toronto Raptors John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

This has been a really rough week for the Chicago Bulls. A loss to the Dallas Mavericks at home on Monday didn’t get things off to the right start, and it has been downhill since. They were absolutely walloped by both the Boston Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks as well.

Granted two of their three opponents in the week have been top contenders in the Eastern Conference. In those games against the Celtics and Bucks, there were segments of the game where you could easily tell the gap in talent between Chicago and those teams. It only shows how shorthanded they are without some of their better young talent and just how much of a mountain they have to climb in order to be competitive in the East. At 4-12 and on a three-game skid, the Bulls are looking for any sort of spark to get them going. However they are welcoming in another Eastern Conference giant to the United Center tonight in the Toronto Raptors.

Toronto’s record this season is Chicago’s but flipped at 12-4. They started the season 12-1 and have been one of the more dominant teams in the entire league. However, they are similar to the Bulls in that they have been on a three-game losing streak as well. A loss to the Pelicans and close losses to both the Pistons and Celtics have Toronto reeling a bit. The Raptors are going to be playing on a back-to-back like the Bulls, too. Yesterday they suffered an overtime loss to Boston, going cold offensively in the extra period.

The last two games have stung a bit for them but this team is good enough to put that past them. They are one of the best in the entire league and have talent up and down the roster.

As we all know, the Raptors traded for Kawhi Leonard this summer and instantly became one of the most intriguing teams in the league. It gets even better when you realize they acquired Danny Green as a salary filler in that deal. The Raptors announced that Leonard will be out tonight due to rest, but Toronto still offers a ton of problems for Chicago’s defense. Kyle Lowry has been spectacular this season, and this will be a tough assignment for Ryan Arcidiacono matched up against him. Arch is going to have to be careful and make sure Lowry doesn’t draw him into foul trouble, and he must keep his fellow Villanova product from burning the Bulls from downtown.

The Raptors’ bench production will also be something to watch for. When Dallas visited the United Center on Monday, their bench was spectacular as well and worked Chicago’s second unit. With the likes of Jonas Valanciunas, Fred VanVleet and Delon Wright, Toronto has a lot of talented players and will give the Bulls reserves fits.

In terms of injuries, it’s more of the same for the Bulls. Lauri Markkanen, Denzel Valentine, Kris Dunn, and Bobby Portis will miss this game for the Bulls, and to make matters worse it looks like Zach LaVine may not play either because of an illness he played through in Milwaukee.

As for Toronto, they will be missing Norman Powell, who is recovering from a left shoulder injury. C.J. Miles and OG Anunoby are also out with a right adductor sprain and a right wrist injury, respectively.

Game Time: 7 p.m. CT

TV: NBC Sports Chicago