Bulls are back tonight, as they had their now-customary single day off and have their 3rd game in 4 nights. But it’s at home. And after seeing guys return from injury and then DeRozan being held out for rest, this game tonight should be the start of the squad for the next 6 weeks or so. Or at least until the trade deadline.
Because everyone out now will be out for a while. Alex Caruso and Lonzo Ball are rehabbing from surgery. Crazily a new one has been added to the ‘6-8 week’ club: as Derrick Jones, who was still not yet back after hyperextending his knee, broke a finger in practice and will be out for that approximately month-and-a-half period like the rest.
But the Bulls still have a pretty good top-6 available for the first time in weeks: Ayo Dosunmu - who is simply not missing shots - looks to be the starting PG alongside Zach LaVine, with Coby White providing some scoring balance off the bench. DeRozan and Vucevic are in the frontcourt with a returned Javonte Green, who has already started 19 games this year.
After that...yes it’s a bit dicey. But 6 solid players is technically an improvement! It’s a much larger post to figure how these long-term injuries to Ball and Caruso affect the team’s attitude towards the trade deadline, but maybe at the least we will see some acquisition made as this bench needs help and we know AKME isn’t easily contented.
Their opponent tonight, the Toronto Raptors, have had a roller-coaster season but playing better after their own COVID-related pause and are firmly in that 2nd group of East teams likely stuck in the play-in. The Raptors are alongside the Hornets, Celtics, Wizards, Knicks, and Hawks where 2 of the aforementioned won’t even be in that mini-tournament to get the bottom two seeds of the playoffs.
Toronto is currently 2nd in that group, and beat the ‘top’ team Hornets last night. But notice that means they’re on the second game of a back-to-back tonight, having to travel to Chicago. Rest advantage!
The Bulls might also have a big talent advantage here as well, as both Fred VanVleet and Scottie Barnes are ‘questionable’ even after sitting out last game, where Pascal Siakam had 24 points and 12 assists as the nominal point guard in VanVleet’s absence.
So this game is as much of a ‘statement game’ as others against higher-profile opponents: this is the team we have until the trade deadline, and the Raptors are capable. If this isn’t a win, it’s fair to be ‘worried’ as Ball and Caruso won’t be back to save them soon.
The Bulls do have one short-term potential absence, as Tyler Cook is questionable after leaving that Thunder game when he was poked in the eye.
For the Raptors, nothing beyond the Barnes and VanVleet game time decisions as the rest of their absences are long-term.
Game Time: 7pm, NBC Sports Chicago