When two struggling teams often meet, though, the calibre of play isn’t exactly inspiring, but such moments provide drama and anticipation.
“We need a win by any means,’’ Raptors point guard Jose Calderon said.
“Whether it’s an ugly win, a pretty win, it doesn’t matter.
“Chicago is a team fighting for us and we’ve beaten them twice, so we know we can win.”
The Raptors hold the tiebreaker in the event each team finishes the regular season with identical records, but the backbreaker is the absence of Chris Bosh.
In two games versus the Bulls, Bosh averaged 26.5 points and 11.5 rebounds. He was the best player on the floor and the team with the best player usually ends up on the winning end.
Under Sunday’s backdrop, Derrick Rose is by far the best player on either team.
“You can’t worry about their situation,” Bulls head coach Vinny Del Negro told reporters in Chicago. “We have enough issues to deal with.
“But no question, when you take one of your key guys out of the lineup, especially an all-star player like Chris, it affects you. Other guys have to step up just like other people have stepped up for us with our injuries.”
Triano, loathe to say anything that could be construed as bulletin-board material, didn’t put much stock in the suggestion the Raptors have an advantage because they haven’t lost to the Bulls in 2009-10. The Raptors will have enough of a challenge on the boards, as the Bulls are the top rebounding team in the NBA.
“I would not say it is a huge confidence factor,” Triano said. “It happened so far in the past (the previous meeting was Dec. 5) and so much has happened since then.”
The Raptors were on their team bus heading to the airport in Atlanta late Friday night when they learned of the Bulls’ loss to New Jersey.
“We were the Nets’ biggest fans,” said DeMar DeRozan, who will face an old college roommate, the Bulls’ Taj Gibson, in the biggest game of the season. “It’s crazy because a lot of stuff is not going our way, but a lot of stuff is (such as the most recent Bulls loss). We have to take advantage of the stuff that is going our way.
“We have a lot of people down, but we have to find a way to pull it out.”
Brad Miller blocked three shots in Friday night’s terrible loss, which seemed to foreshadow the way he rejected theories about Sunday’s huge Bulls-Raptors matchup after Saturday’s practice.
Easier to beat the Raptors without Chris Bosh?
"(Andrew) Bogut didn’t play; LeBron (James) didn’t play; we could go on and on," Miller said in reference to a loss to the Bucks and narrow victory over the Cavaliers without their stars. "This is the NBA. You never know what’s going to happen."
Difficult to rebound from the brutal double-overtime loss to the Nets?
"One thing I’ve learned about this team is when our backs are against the wall, we usually do pretty well," Miller said. "That loss sucks really bad, but we just need to win out."
The Toronto Raptors are slight 53.2 percent favorites over the Chicago Bulls. The Bulls are shooting 47.8 percent from the field and the Raptors are forecasted to shoot 46.2 percent. The Bulls have the rebounding advantage at 44.4 to 38.7. The Raptors are committing fewer turnovers at 13.2 vs 16 for the Bulls. The Bulls are making 3.7 three pointers on 35.9 percent from three point range. The Raptors are making 6.3 three pointers on 35.4 percent.
KEY PLAYER STATISTICAL DATA—PTS: Derrick Rose 20.2, Andrea Bargnani 19.9 ASSISTS: Derrick Rose 7.7, Jose Calderon 8.4 REBOUNDS: Taj Gibson 8.2, Andrea Bargnani 7.5
Some close observers of the team feel that Turkoglu is more focused on this year’s world championships that will be held in his host country of Turkey, rather than playing for his employer. But wait just a second. Do you hear that, Hedo? It’s opportunity knocking. The franchise is down. The season has been a roller coaster of frustration. Here you have a chance to change all that.
Time to show everyone that magic from last year’s playoffs. Remember that? The stuff where you matched LeBron James with every big shot with one of your own. The same guy who kept Orlando standing against Kobe Bryant’s determined Lakers in the finals. You know, the stuff that led you to signing a contract bigger than the 6/49 jackpots that turns this country on its head.
Turkoglu has got three games left to change all the negativity; three games to be the leader Bryan Colangelo signed him to be. Score like he was expected to and he could turn a lot of boos into cheers. It might be a quick exit from the playoffs that looms, but getting the Raptors into the playoffs could go a long way towards changing the horrible perception that he’s created in Toronto.
“We played against really good teams the last three games. We lost but we played much better basketball. I think I’m ready for this game,” Calderon said.
Coach Jay Triano wouldn’t tip his hand about who he might start against the Bulls but did indicate having Amir Johnson replace Bosh, as he did Friday in Atlanta, was the most likely move.
Whoever it is, and whoever has to play behind him or in the minutes Wright usually gets, Triano can only hope they are up to the challenge.
“You hope that you’ve played guys enough throughout the season that they can step up and take on more now and they’re not going to be completely out of place,” he said.
“For the most part, we have, and some guys have stepped up. The multiple injuries make you reach a little bit deeper into your lineup and that’s what we have to do.”
This is what it all comes down to – David versus Goliath. Or in this case it would probably be more accurate to label this one as the inconsistent injured guys versus the cocky yet pathetic ones. Yes, I am referring to the Toronto Raptors and the Chicago Bulls, who face off on Sunday evening in a game that will more than likely dictate which of these two clubs qualifies for the 8th and final playoff spot in the eastern conference. Both teams come into this one with identical 38-41 records, with the Raptors holding the tiebreaker after having won both of their two previous meetings.
The Raptors are now the masters of their own destiny and can solidify their hold on the 8th and final playoff spot with a victory over the Bulls on Sunday.
Amir Johnson is expected to play a big role after his breakout 18 and 13 game against the Hawks.
The Raptors finish off the season playing two sub .500 ball clubs, facing the Pistons and Knicks; while the Bulls face a tougher test with Charlotte and Miami.
When all is said and done, it may be New Jersey Net Terrence Williams that saved the Toronto Raptors season.
The Bulls starting 5 have a lot of good rebounders. Noah, Gibson and Deng can all crash the boards. However, the starting 5 doesn’t have a lot of range with their perimeter play. Deng and Rose are more comfortable with midrange, while you can never count on Hinrich. I think he is the key to the Bulls, if he can knock down the open looks, the Raptors will be in for a long night. They don’t have a low post scorer, so they really rely on ball movement and the driving ability of Derrick Rose. When the Raptors saw Rose in December, he was hampered by an ankle injury. Right now, he is playing great basketball on offense, though a complete sieve on defense.