Gameday – Bulls @ Raptors, March 21

Raptors have a chance? Bullshhh…

The Bulls will be without Derrick Rose, in all likelihood. In the words of Lloyd Christmas…”so you’re saying there’s a chance?”

No. No I’m not.

The Bulls have actually been rolling along just fine in Rose’s absence, winning three of four. On the year, they’re 10-4 when he’s out of the lineup, thanks primarily to the league’s 2nd best defense. That’s not to say that Rose isn’t a good defender, because he can be, but he’s not the lynchpin defensively, and therefore this team is still built to grind out games even without their high-scoring star. So while you may see “Rose, Inactive, Groin” and think happy thoughts, please don’t.

At this point in the year, and with the Bulls having beat the Raptors in an ugly 77-64 snoozefest back in January, I shouldn’t have to tell you just how good Tom Thibodeau’s squad is. But I will, because that’s what they’re paying me (annual salary=$0) to do here.

Wed March 21
Chicago @ Toronto
Record 38-10 15-31
Point Diff +9.0 -4.1
Power Rtg 2nd (107.9) 23rd (95.6)
PR Predict Chicago -9
Off Eff 3rd 26th
Def Eff 2nd 15th
Pace 23rd 23rd
Reb Rate 1st 16th
Off Reb 1st 22nd
Def Reb 11th 2nd
Ast Rate 2nd 11th
TO Rate 6th 25th
Def FG% 4th 9th
FTA allow 4th 30th

The Bulls have molded themselved into arguably the league’s best team by starting from their own basket and working out from there. They’re 2nd in the league in defensive efficiency, have the league’s highest rebound rate, don’t let teams get to the line, and hold opponents to a ridiculous 42.6% from the floor.

Things don’t get any easier as the ball moves up the floor, as the Bulls also have a turnover rate near the top of the Association. If their 2nd-ranked assist rate and 5th-ranked FG% weren’t deadly enough, they also have the league’s best offensive rebounding rate. This all adds up to give them the 3rd best offensive efficiency, and basically means there’s no good way to play them – they shoot well, protect the ball, and even if you can D-up to the levels they do, they’re still likely to pull down the boards and try it all over again.

In a word, the Bulls are…well, favorites. Favorites in this game, a near coin-flip in the East, and one of the three favorites to take it all come June. The Raptors, in a word, are…bad. On paper, this shouldn’t be close, but I should mention that the Raptors beat the Bulls on home court last year in a stunningly high-scoring affair. As it is, I don’t see things breaking down that way tonight, and the Bulls should be able to lock in and win by double digits, even without the reigning MVP.

Sure, the Raptors aren’t a league-worst outfit. They’re the 2nd best defensive rebounding team, which could negate some of the Bulls’ O-board prowess, and they’re in the top-10 in opponent FG%. But those aren’t even advantages so much as they’re factors that could at least diminish a Bulls’ advantage a bit. So things don’t look great.

Jose Calderon is back, but Jerryd Bayless is likely questionable after suffering a hip pointer last night. And John Lucas isn’t exactly a push-over as a third PG.

CJ Watson and Ronnie Brewer are above-average defenders who should, in theory, give DeMar DeRozan fits, and it’s likely Coach Thibodeau will have some unique looks drawn up to take a swing at his confidence and aggression early.

Luol Deng is better than any wing on the Raps, while back-up Kyle Korver is exactly the type of player who gets hot against the Raptors for an out-of-nowhere 20-piece.

Down low, the Bulls boast the best front-court in the NBA, with the ability to throw Joakim Noah, Carlos Boozer, Taj Gibson, and Omer Asik out two at a time. The Raptors can counter with Bargs, Ed Davis, Amir Johnson, and Aaron Gray…so, yeah, not exactly a “push” there. Andrea Bargnani has struggled since his return (35.2% shooting, 3.3 turnovers per game), and Chicago will have Noah and Gibson guard Bargnani and force him to work for everything. Meanwhile, Davis and Amir can hope to win the rebounding battle with their counterparts and maybe get a few bunnies, because the interior D for Chicago is ridiculous.

I don’t mean to be a Negative Nancy, but after a weekend of watching March Madness (I was in Pittsburgh for 6 games) my focus is mostly on the table below, as much as I don’t like admitting it with 20 games remaining. Check back on March 31, when I’m scheduled for a non-game article, where I’ll likely be looking at potential picks in all three spots we draft, as well as potential moves to get another 1st.

Lottery Standings
Team Record Games “Behind”
Charlotte 7-37 0.0
Washington 10-34 3.0
New Orleans 11-34 3.5
New Jersey 15-32 6.5
Toronto 15-31 7.0
Detroit 16-29 8.5
Sacramento 17-29 9.0
Cleveland 17-26 10.5
Golden State 18-25 11.5
Portland 21-25 13.0
Milwaukee 21-24 13.5
New York 22-24 14.0
Minnesota 23-24 14.5

Anyway, that’s a tangent.

Tonight…Bulls at Raptors, Bulls by 10 in a low scoring affair. 89-79. Enjoy.

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