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Chicago Bulls vs. Toronto Raptors Game Preview and thread: protect the playoff seed!

Hugely important game

NBA: Chicago Bulls at Toronto Raptors John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Chicago Bulls (41-29) vs. Toronto Raptors (40-31)

This might be the most important game of the season.

With less than a month left in the 2021-2022 regular season, just a game and a half separates the Bulls in fifth in the Eastern Conference from the Raptors (and Cavs) in that dreaded seventh spot which would put them in position for the play-in game.

Their remaining 12 games are peppered with matchups against playoff teams, and they host those Raptors, who are surging lately, tonight.

One problem is that the Bulls can’t beat anybody right now, especially if their opponent has a winning record. The Bulls are 2-8 in the last 10 games with an egregious loss against the Sacramento Kings sprinkled in there. TheReturn of Alex Caruso was supposed to be a panacea but they’re 1-3 since that hallowed day.

After all the good will the Bulls built up earlier in the year including extended stays at the very top of the conference it would be absolutely devastating if the Bulls end up in the 7th seed and having to do a play-in game.

The Raptors are the inverse at the moment, behind the Bulls in the standings all year but playing their best ball of the season. They’re 6-1 in their last 7 games with the lone loss coming in overtime, and their list of bested opponents include the Suns, Sixers and Nuggets.

But a lot of factors should be in the Bulls favor here. The game is in Chicago, they have a decided rest advantage (Raptors on 2nd game of a back-to-back, with that OT game just occurring on Friday), and the Raps will be short a couple key players. And in general the Bulls are the more talented team. Whether they prove it tonight is a very open question.

Injury Report:

Not exactly burying the lead because it’s not some All-Star or even a Caruso returning, but a good piece of news for the Bulls right now is that reinforcements are again arriving. Patrick Williams, who hasn’t played since Oct. 28, will make his return tonight. It is just a second-year player after an extremely long layoff, but any playable body can help.

For the Raptors, they will be without OG Anunoby and Gary Trent Jr. (who put up 32 against the Bulls in January and has had a couple 40-point nights since then). Malachai Flynn is also out.

Game Time: NBC Sports Chicago, 7:00 p.m. CDT

Odds:

The Bulls are listed as four-point favorites tonight, with an over/under set for the cumulative game score being 220 total points. (All info via DraftKings. Check out DraftKings Sportsbook, the official sportsbook partner of SB Nation.)