Don’t worry everybody, we had a full moon to contend with and are neck deep in the dregs of Scorpio season, not to mention coming off one hell of a road trip. These dudes are a bit wobbly.
But before we get into it I want you to look at a picture:
Do you recognize this demon? It’s the ref that ejected Lowry, smug as all seven hells. Do you know what Lowry was doing when this land-shark was flashing his tiny-tooth grin to the camera? He was kissing his baby. Just take that to heart the next time you have your own real-life manifestation of this dude. Maybe it’s someone trying to climb onto you like a backpack so they can fit on the subway in the morning, or maybe it’s somebody at the airport definitely boarding in the wrong zone. Whoever it is, take a page out of Lowry’s book. Well not completely, don’t kiss any baby you see. Just picture a baby and kiss it. The point is: move on.
And that’s what the Raptors are going to do tonight.
It’s the Bulls! Who cares (we all do, I know, it’s a figure of speech). Remember how cursed these guys were for the Raptors when they were still packing big, bad Dougie McBuckets? Point is, we broke the curse in the pre-season and it’s smooth sailing from here on out.
But if there are some tiny things to worry about, and honestly nobody panic, the Powell/Ibaka/JV starting combo does not look good. Washington roasted them. Even before the Wizards game, Powell had been looking like he was trapped in a never-ending playoff series continuum. He has been grinding, pushing it, looking laboured and a little bit lost. He’s started in every game (9) since the season began and tinkering with the lineup now by sitting Powell could help Casey examine a new rotation while giving Norman a breather. Powell’s a contributor, and has earned the starting spot, but if the rotation in question is bringing more frustration than results, why not work out something new to serve one of the Raptors most dedicated dudes rather than forcing him to fit. Barring a terrible performance from just about everyone, tonight’s game should be a cinch, so what better time to get creative and try tweaking that starting line.
Casey could start Miles, or Siakam for some speed, which could help to alleviate some of the pressure off Norm and help with spacing. Pascal is proving to be a gritty and imaginative defender, which is likely to be the shot in the arm the starting lineup needs if Casey starts him. Poeltl, though prone to rushing it a bit, has been looking strong, and could be a viable starter if Casey instead takes to swapping out JV. It won’t happen, but it’s becoming more apparent that these early season games seem to really start once the bench goes in. Or get way more interesting, anyway. Again, the Bulls shouldn’t be much trouble and tonight’s game could provide an opportunity to mess around a bit without throwing the rhythm off too badly. I’d even argue that we don’t have a rhythm yet, so adjustments to find it are well warranted.
Despite his fewer touches, it’s too early to get worried about Lowry. He’s working his way into the new offensive structure and that always meant he’d have to step it up as a distributor. He can’t keep the same handling and wait for the spots to come. Lowry is at his best when he’s driving, finding the gaps and gunning it there to make the shot. If he can find the balance, which he will, between knowing when to pull back and distribute versus when to move and cut, not only will he gain an innate sense of the ball derived from less minutes, but he’ll be playing faster and smarter for it.
As always, Fred VanVleet was a ray of golden light in an otherwise dark and troubled time on Sunday. What can I say other than I told you so? I told you so, about a million times. Fred will show up for this game, just like every other game before and after, and throw his whole body into every stop, steal and contested 3. Let’s have Fred coming right off the bench tonight, please.
Speaking of 3s, Casey needs to come up with a plan for shooting these, and quick. Bebe, mebe?
To dig a little deeper into tonight’s game I reached out to John Wilmes, who is literally from Chicago but also writes for VICE Sports and Real GM.
Who do you think the Bulls biggest threat to the Raptors is now that evil Dougie McBuckets is gone?
Markkanen. He’s the only good player on the team!
Did you notice Valentine got his braces off and do you think that will affect his performance?
I didn’t ever notice he had them on tbh. I kind of have already accepted the end of his career. As a thing that will happen sort of soon.
Have you seen Ryan Arcidiacono’s picture in the Bulls roster on Google recently, is he a lounge singer?
This guy’s existence is news to me. He could be a lounge singer.
Are you guys going to beat us or are we going to beat you?
I think the Raptors will win. The hex is over. The Bulls can’t beat them anymore.
Do you think Mirotić is going to come back with his face fully intact or a bit messed up?
I hope for everyone’s sake that he will not play another game for the Bulls, but he probably will. With a fucked up face.
Who is your favourite Raptor?
Everyone is technically healthy but Lowry’s back is still bothering him. More reason to rest him throughout this game and split up his minutes between an able VanVleet and a willing Wright. Miles is still sick (buddy, I feel you) but with Powell’s rough starts there’ll be no resting C.J., Bench Dad needs to lead the bench.
PG: Kyle Lowry, Fred VanVleet, Delon Wright
SG: DeMar DeRozan
SF: Norman Powell, C.J. Miles, Alfonzo McKinnie
PF: Serge Ibaka, OG Anunoby, Pascal Siakam, Bruno Caboclo
C: Jonas Valanciunas, Jakob Poeltl, Lucas Nogueira
Could tonight be the return of bad boy Bobby Portis? He’s eligible, and having him back on the floor would be interesting. Markannen is averaging 16 points per game and shooting 38% from 3-point range and by default will be the Bull to watch for.
PG: Jerian Grant, Kris Dunn, Ryan Arcidiacono, Kay Felder
SG: Justin Holiday, Antonio Blakeney
SF: Paul Zipser, Denzel Valentine
PF: Lauri Markannen, Bobby Portis
C: Robin Lopez, Cristiano Felicio
OUT: Zach LaVine, David Nwaba, Cameron Payne, Nikola Mirotic