Gameday: Raptors vs Bulls – Apr. 11/10

3 games to go, and none more important than today's. The Raptors can pull away from the Bulls in the standings with a win this afternoon at the ACC, 6pm tip.

Who would have thought that the Nets would have done the Raptors a solid by taking the Bulls out in double overtime? If that wins doesn’t happen, the Raptors would be looking at a much different road to securing the 8th spot. They would have to win all three of their remaining games, and hope that the Bulls lose at least one of them.

As things stand now, a Raptor win today against the Bulls, and a split between the Pistons and Knicks will guarantee the Raptors a playoff spot; but if the Raptors lose to the Bulls today, they HAVE to win the next two games, and hope the Bulls drop one of their last two. It actually gets a little more exciting than that: the Bulls next two games are:

  • At home to the Celtics who are fighting the Hawks for 3rd in the East, and a second round bypass of the Cavs
  • On the road to the Bobcats, who are 31-9 there

So it doesn’t exactly look that good for the Bulls, but the truth of the matter is that the Raptors need every last bit of help they can get considering they are the walking wounded with both Chris Bosh and Antoine Wright expected to miss the game. At the least, the Raptors have kept it interesting all season, and it wouldn’t sit right for the team to get into the playoffs without a little stress and drama.

Friday against the Hawks, the Raptors got a big boost at power forward with Amir taking the reigns. By no means is he a viable replacement for Bosh, but he put up 18pts 13rebs in his place. I get it, the kid is good and will get mid-level type money in a couple months. Aside from that air-ball (over the basket) from a couple feet, Evans provided some good minutes, chipping in 5pts 4res (3off) in 9 minutes of play.

Front court play will be crucial today, even with Noah not a 100% recovered from his recent injuries. Del Negro has been managing his minutes recently, but he has the green light to let the kid run loose, which is not good news for the Raptors. Without Bosh’s consistency in the paint, Noah represents the kind of hustle player that can get Amir in foul trouble and outwork Bargnani on the glass.

Speaking of Bargnani, it’s time he delivers. There are only 3 bloody games left in the year, I’m pretty sure he can muster the effort and intensity to carry this team into the playoffs. 4 years man, do something already, my patience has been worn thin. 15pts 6rebs in 37 minutes against the Hawks, seriously man? Seriously…?

Between Gibson, Noah, Miller and Warrick, Del Negro has enough options to throw different looks out there and hope for the best. Bargnani, Johnson and Evans will be tested very often. I’m actually looking for Rasho to get some extra burn today. Noah will log heavy minutes, and the guy doesn’t get out past about 8ft; that’s Rasho’s style – tight and aggressive. Let the man play in an important game, it would make many of us feel better.

I just want to echo what Arse and many others are saying about booing Calderon: if there is one guy who doesn’t dog it when he’s on the court, it’s Calderon. You can book that. He’s always intense and ready to throw down (remember the shouting match with Garnett?). While he may be overpaid, who isn’t on this team? It’s enough already.

Calderon and Jack kept it down in the back-court with 23pts 16ast on Friday. There was consistency at the point all game, which will be crucial today against Rose. He is sick, and his dribble penetration scares the hell out of me. Calderon will have no chance of guarding him, so I would prefer he switch over to Hinrich, and let Weems match-up with the kid. No sense in even letting Rose get going quickly to start the game. Rose had 7 turnovers against the juggernaut Nets offense on Friday, so he is prone some sloppy play. Weems, DeRozan and Belinelli will all have to force and press the kid every chance. No layups and no drive-bys.

The line on the game is Bulls by 2; expect a tight, grind-em-out type battle. No more excuses, there really isn’t anymore time to make them.

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