The last time the Toronto Raptors beat the Chicago Bulls, Scottie Pippen dropped a 40-piece.
That’s not true, but the fact that you probably had to think on it a second to make sure it wasn’t speaks to how long Chicago’s dominance of the Raptors has held. No matter the roster constructions, the lineups, or the injuries,, the Bulls have proven too much for Toronto over and over. They’ve won nine consecutive meetings using eight different starting lineups, getting big contributions from E’Twaun Moore, Jimmy Butler,Doug McDermott, and a host of other Gerald Henderson Aware nominees. Expect Isaiah Canaan to throw up 30 in this one, because of course he will.
The Raptors visiting Chicago here continues a tough stretch of play. After six in a row out west, the Raptors returned home to beat Utah, now head to Chicago and then return home for a tip-off against the Rockets just 22 hours later. There’s never much pressure on any individual game, but with how well Houston’s playing, how fatigued Toronto may be tomorrow, and how much they’d probably like to stop hearing about the Bulls having their number, Saturday’s showdown is one the Raptors would surely like to take care of with some emphasis.
The game tips off at 8 p m. on TSN and TSN 1050. You can check out the full game preview here.
Patrick Patterson will sit once again. Patterson is dealing with a left knee strain that’s now kept him out of the last four-and-a-half games, and he did not participate in shootaround Saturday. It would have been surprising to see him miss shootaround and then return, especially in a back-to-back scenario. Head coach Dwane Casey has talked about being cautious, which the team should absolutely be doing here in January, as much as getting a win in Chicago would be nice.
With Patterson out, the Raptors have a few options. The Bulls have some frontcourt depth but aren’t exceptionally large, so Toronto can probably steal minutes small and get away with Pascal Siakam playing in his usual power forward role. The team may opt to start Lucas Nogueira t the four once again for some additional size and rebounding, and the Nogueira-Jonas Valanciunas duo owns a plus-2.6 net rating in 28 minutes through four games. The dual-center lineups that were good against the Lakers and not as bad as their traditional ones against the Spurs were once again decent against Utah.
UPDATE: Nogueira starts again.
Otherwise, they might be able to buy some minutes smaller, with DeMarre Carroll or Norman Powell at the four, especially when Nikola Mirotic is in the game and needs to be chased off the 3-point line.
PG: Kyle Lowry, Cory Joseph
SG: DeMar DeRozan, Norman Powell
SF: DeMarre Carroll, Terrence Ross
PF: Lucas Nogueira, Pascal Siakam
C: Jonas Valanciunas, Jakob Poeltl
Assigned: Bruno Caboclo, Fred VanVleet
OUT: Delon Wright, Jared Sullinger, Patrick Patterson
Chicago has more or less ditched the Rajon Rondo experiment at this point, which makes sense since it seemed doomed from the start. Michael Carter-Williams maybe isn’t a better player, but Rondo’s allergy to shooting is a terrible problem with a team so thin on spacing, and his defensive reputation has been slow to catch up with the fact that he hasn’t been particularly good on that end of the floor for several years. As a result, Rondo has sat three games in a row, and he seems likely to do so again here unless something notable changes in Fred Hoiberg’s thinking.
That doesn’t mean the Bulls are suddenly an all-natural fit around the court. Carter-Williams isn’t a great shooter, neither of their starting bigs stretch the floor much, and Dwyane Wade is more of a threat moving off the ball than spotting up. The Bulls rank dead-last in 3-point attempts, makes, and percentage as a result, and Toronto will have a chance to really swing the game in that area. The new starting lineup is -5.3 points per-100 possessions in 34 minutes together so far
Still, Wade remains very effective, Jimmy Butler remains capable of dropping 50 on a given night, and there’s some shooting off the bench. Chicago owns the league’s No. 18 offense despite the fit issues, and they’ve won four of six, including a road win against an admittedly shorthanded Cavaliers team Wednesday. Expect Butler to draw the DeRozan assignment, which is always one of the most fun tests on the schedule for the Raptors’ leading scorer.
Meanwhile, Bobby Portis, one of Raptors fans’ favorite what-ifs, was recalled from the D-League, and another one of their favorite what-ifs, Denzel Valentine, remains sidelined with an ankle injury.
PG: Michael Carter-Williams, Jerian Grant, Rajon Rondo
SG: Dwyane Wade, Isaiah Canaan
SF: Jimmy Butler, Doug McDermott
PF: Taj Gibson, Nikola Mirotic
C: Robin Lopez, Cristiano Felicio, Bobby Portis
Assigned: Paul Zipser
Out: Denzel Valentine
- Today is the last day for NBA teams to waive players with non-gauranteed contracts in order the prevent them from becoming guaranteed on Jan. 10. That means that Fred VanVleet’s deal will become guaranteed. I had received questions often ass to whether he could be waived to clear a roster spot ahead of Delon Wright’s return, but that never seemed like a strong possibility. With a league-minimum salaray and the Raptors as far from the luxury tax as they are (and baout $6.5 million), there would be little cost to eating VanVleet’s salary if they needed to waive him later, like with Anthony Bennett the year prior. For now, VanVleet is a Raptor, one the team remains high on.
- VanVleet and Bruno Caboclo are in Chicago, but for a game of their own with Raptors 905 against the Windy City Bulls. Expect them to be recalled for Sunday’s game against Houston.
- There are no updates on Delon Wright or Jared Sullinger. Both have been doing some none-5-on-5 scrimmage work, and Wright is nearing his Jan. 17 target return date, but there’s been no firm update given on their timelines.
The Raptors are two-point favorites on the road, with the over-under at 208. Being a favorite in Chicago without Patterson is a pretty nice nod of respect to the Raptors, as the Bulls are 18-8 and have turned a bit of a corner of late. They’re also roughly average on each end of the floor, posing a nice test for Toronto’s elite offense and still-finding-their-way defense. It’s a very winnable game, but it would be hard to give points given the recent history here, Butler’s incredible play, and Toronto’s thin frontcourt.