Let’s just get into it and re-recap, shall we?
- Feb. 19, 2014: 94-92 home loss; trailed all game, cut lead to one late, DeRozan blocked by Butler on final possession.
- Nov. 13, 2014: 100-93 home loss; led for 20 minutes early, outscored 35-14 in third quarter.
- Dec. 22, 2014: 129-120 road loss; went six-plus minutes scoreless, gave up 49 in fourth quarter.
- March 20, 2015: 108-92 road loss; pretty thorough bell-to-bell beating, as Bulls led for 40 minutes.
- March 25, 2015: 116-103 home loss; led for 39 minutes, outscored 39-21 in fourth quarter.
- Dec. 28, 2015: 104-97 road loss; squandered Scola scoring 12 in the first when Snell scored 16 in the fourth.
- Jan. 3, 2016: 115-113 home loss; The Jimmy Butler Second Half Game.
- Feb. 19, 2016: 116-106 road loss; Valanciunas goes 11-and-6 in first, then McDermott drops 30 and Bulls take second half 64-48.
- March 14, 2016: 109-107 home loss; McDermott drops 29 again, Raptors don’t lead over final 47 minutes, DeRozan blocked by Butler on final possession.
- Jan. 7, 2017: 123-118 OT road loss; Butler scores 32 over second half and overtime as Raptors blow 13-point lead in final seven-plus minutes of regulation.
- Feb. 14, 2017: 105-94; Pretty nondescript as far as these games go (the Raptors led for all of two minutes), though McDermott of course scored 20 in his final Bulls-Raptors outing.
This is the power the Chicago Bulls have held over the Toronto Raptors for the last three-plus calendar years. In those 11 consecutive victories, the Bulls have deployed 17 different starters, and they’ll use their 11th different starting lineup tonight. Both teams have played 26 different players. This isn’t some streak that comes from system – the Bulls have changed coaches – or personnel – Jimmy Butler obviously helps – or matchup specifics. It’s just weird, mostly random, and seems likely to end on Tuesday.
Of course, it’s seemed likely to end a bunch of times, including during the course of the losses. It’s a weird spot where the Raptors probably should be the pick with the Bulls out Dwyane Wade to balance out some of the Kyle Lowry absence and the Raptors being a better team in general, but it’s almost impossible to pick them. The Bulls are fighting for their playoff lives, too. Something weird will happen, almost surely. Is anyone putting in past Joffrey Lauvergne to drop a 30-piece here, with his 7-foot Blake Murphy lookin’ ass?
For their part, the Raptors sure would like to get this win out of the way so we can stop talking about it.
“Any time somebody’s spanked you that many times, you better pay attention to it,” head coach Dwane Casey said before the game. “It’s been different people, different teams, different situations, different ways of losing to them. Like I told the team today, now it’s enough. We’ve gotta come out with a competitive spirit to try to take some pride in stopping it.”
The game tips off at 7 on TSN 1/4 and TSN 1050, and on ESPN in the U.S.. It’s also Huskies night! You can check out the full game preview here.
It’s everything as expected for the Raptors, who are still awaiting Kyle Lowry’s return – there’s no update, by the way – but have mostly started to figure things out otherwise. Jonas Valanciunas got his hair cut on Monday and is back to the #PlayoffJV look, so expect a big performance opposite Robin Lopez and company.
Apropos of nothing, here’s a fun note from our dude Cooper:
Toronto Raptors DREB% and rank in clutch situations :
Pre ASB – 76.9 (10th)
Post ASB – 90% (2nd)
— Coop (@CoopNBA) March 21, 2017
PG: Cory Joseph, Delon Wright, Fred VanVleet
SG: DeMar DeRozan, Norman Powell
SF: DeMarre Carroll, P.J. Tucker
PF: Serge Ibaka, Patrick Patterson
C: Jonas Valanciunas, Jakob Poeltl, Lucas Nogueira
ASSIGNED: Pascal Siakam, Bruno Caboclo
OUT: Kyle Lowry
With Dwyane Wade sidelined for the season and Cam Payne rehabbing in the D-League, it’s next man up as always for the Bulls. Their carousel of mediocre point guards is giving Rajon Rondo a ride once again, Paul Zipser has stepped up nicely on the wing, and Bobby Portis responded to getting jumped in the starting lineup by scoring a career-high 22 points on the weekend. As shaky as it looks at first blush, the Bulls still have talent. They do not, however, have even a single lineup iteration available to them tonight that’s played more than 46 minutes together on the year.
“It shouldn’t be able to,” Casey said when asked if the jersey alone can get to a team. “That’s the disappointing thing from our standpoint, is the fact that, you know, what is it? Jimmy Butler is now the last of the Mohicans that’s there. So what else is it?”
PG: Rajon Rondo, Michael Carter-Williams, Jerian Grant
SG: Paul Zipser, Anthony Morrow, Isaiah Canaan
SF: Jimmy Butler, Denzel Valentine
PF: Nikola Mirotic, Bobby Portis, Joffrey Lauvergne
C: Robin Lopez, Cristiano Felicio
ASSIGNED: Cam Payne
OUT: Dwyane Wade
- The Edmonton Grads, Canada’s premier women’s basketball team, the first women’s world champions ever, and the North American pro sports team with the best winning percentage ever, will be honoured tonight. You can check out the new Heritage Minute on the team here.
- More detail, from Historica Canada: “hat began as a women’s high-school team was to become a sporting dynasty whose winning record remains unparalleled by any team in any sport since. In their 25 year history, the Grads played 522 official games in Canada, the United States and Europe, and recorded a record of 502 wins and 20 loses (some of which came in exhibition games against men’s teams).”
- Bruno Caboclo and Pascal Siakam remain with Raptors 905 in the D-League. The 905 play game two of a four-game road trip on Wednesday, but it’s worth noting that each destination is close enough that they could conceivably be recalled in a hurry. Caboclo’s turned in some very nice performances of late, and Siakam was named D-League Performer of the Week. Most notably, Siakam went 5-of-6 on threes over his three appearances last week.
- The Raptors are now in the top 10 for both offensive and defensive efficiency on the season, joining the Warriors and Spurs. If they ever figure out how to play at both ends at once, look out – a ton of caveats apply, but being top-10 levels of good on both ends is generally used as shorthand for a team to get into the title discussion (this doesn’t really apply to the Cavs).
- Over at Vice, I wrote about how the current East standings stack up for seeding and took a quick look at some potential first-round matchups for the Raptors.
- In more promotion, our pal William Lou will join Alex Wong and Anupa Mistry on a HoopTalks panel next week, and you shouldn’t definitely buy a ticket and go hear them talk diversity in sports media.
The Raptors are 7.5-point favorites, which clearly indicates the oddsmakers don’t believe in curses. That’s a strong line, even with how well the Raptors have played in their last two games, and Bulls showed against Utah they can still pack a punch without Wade. The over-under down at 197.5 is pointing to another grind-it-out style of game.