Coming off the team’s best effort of the season, the Toronto Raptors host the Chicago Bulls at the Air Canada Centre on Friday night.
Before we get into breaking it down, I reached out to noted hair enthusiast and ligament expert Trey Kerby to answer a few Bulls-related questions for us. Trey, of course, is a member of NBA TV’s The Starters, formerly known as TBJ.
1) What are three words you would use to describe Carlos Boozer’s hair/facial hair?
Trey: Very, very inky.
2) Where does Jimmy Butler rank in your NBA hairstyles power rankings?
Trey: People are having laughs at Jimmy Butler’s hairscut, but that’s a pretty popular look nowadays. I like it. I’d say he’s a Top 10 hairscut in the league right now.
3) Derrick Rose’s comeback from a torn ACL is obviously the biggest story around the Bulls so far. What is the second most important piece of soft-tissue on the Bulls, and what is your favorite ligament?
Trey: Second most important piece of soft tissue on the Bulls is Joakim Noah’s plantar fascia, which better not get any itis happening this year if the Bulls really want to win a title.
My personal favorite ligaments are the extensor pollicis brevis and the abductor pollicis longus, which form something called the “anatomical snuff box” at the bottom of your thumb. Google it because it’s awesome.
4) The Bulls are struggling offensively despite having great offensive rebounding. Other than taking care of their own glass, what should the Raptors be focused on defensively?
Keep a body in front of Rose on the pick-and-roll. Then have another one near the rim to make things tough. He’s back athletically, but he’s still figuring out how to finish the way he used to/get foul calls. Do that and you’ve neutralized a lot of the Bulls’ offense.
That’s an insightful point by Trey about how to guard Rose off of screens, though it’s of course easier said than done. Luckily, this is one of the areas in which Amir Johnson excels, so expect to see him heavily involved with handling Rose.
You know, if Rose plays. And this is really the main story – Rose suffered what he and the team are calling a “minor” hamstring injury during Monday night’s game against the Cleveland Cavaliers. It looked worse than it was, apparently, as in the moment I think most feared for the health of his knee.
Anyway, Rose hasn’t practiced all week and is questionable for Friday’s game. Rose says if it were up to him he’d be playing but the team has every reason to be cautious. In addition, the Bulls host the Indiana Pacers on Saturday, and they may prefer to have Rose available for that game, with certainty, than risk it Friday.
For whatever my opinion is worth, I think a) he will play but b) he shouldn’t – the Bulls will probably take this one regardless, and there’s little sense in risking further injury in November.
If Rose can’t go, Kirk Hinrich would get the start. While Hinrich looks like the worst created player in history (seriously, can you fit another accessory on him?), he’s still pretty solid, especially on the defensive end. Mike James – yes, the Amityville Scorer, former Raptor – and Marquis Teague are further down the point guard depth chart and could see action if Rose is hurt.
Point Guard: Bulls if Rose plays, slight Raptors edge if not.
Wings: DeMar DeRozan, Rudy Gay, Terrence Ross and Landry Fields vs. Jimmy Butler, Luol Deng and Mike Dunleavy.
Butler and Deng may be off to slow starts offensively but either one would still be the Raptors’ best wing. The Bulls only playing a three-wing rotation means two things: there are always two bigs on the floor, and the Rose-Hinrich pairing will get run if Rose plays (they’ve played 48 minutes together and the Bulls offense gets horrendous when they do).
The Deng-Butler combo is, as expected, quite good in terms of lineup data, with the Bulls allowing just 94.7 points per 100 possessions with the duo on the floor (a hair better than the team’s overall mark, which is the third best in the league). However, the offense gets far better when Dunleavy is the second wing (regardless of if he’s paired with Butler or Deng), even though Dunleavy is averaging just 7.8 points. His floor spacing is really important to the flow of the offense, it seems, with nobody else but Hinrich appearing capable of hitting threes.
For the Raptors on offense, isolation ball just won’t work against two starting wing defenders this good. Ball movement is paramount, though there’s hardly a good way to score on Chicago.
Bigs: Amir Johnson, Jonas Valanciunas and Tyler Hansbrough (Acy/Gray/Novak) vs. Carlos Boozer, Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson and Nazr Mohammed
This might actually be where the Raptors can carve out an advantage, believe it or not. The Bulls are a below-average team on their own glass while the Raptors are the league’s top offensive rebounding unit. The latter may not be sustainable, but the Bulls were only average on their own boards last year, too.
And extra (or extended) possessions are what the Raptors need, because you simply won’t maximize the ones you do get against this defense. Rebounds and limiting turnovers (another area the Raptors are performing admirably in, while the Bulls don’t force many, either) are even more important than usual Friday.
The Boozer-Johnson, Valanciunas-Noah and Gibson-Johnson match-ups should be a lot of fun to watch.
The game is off the board in Vegas thanks to the mystery surrounding Rose’s status, and the over-under is likewise off the board. That could be the case right up until a determination on Rose is made.
You can narrate your way to a Raptors win with some loose assumptions, but this Bulls team is just plain better. (That said, believe it or not the Raptors are ninth in Net Rating and above-average in Simple Rating thanks to performing well, statistically, on both ends of the floor in the early going.) Bulls by seven, and I’ll take somewhere in the neighborhood of 190 as the total.
The game tips at 7 p.m. on TSN and then we do it all again Sunday afternoon against Portland. Have a good weekend everyone.
11 a.m. Update: Per beat writers, Tom Thibodeau is saying Rose is “unlikely” to play tonight.