Pre-game news & notes: Portis returns from suspension for Bulls

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To be completely upfront, I’m a little rattled by the Roy Halladay news as I write this. He is truly one of the great modern Toronto athletes, a perfect combination of dominance, dedication, professionalism, commitment to the city, and genuine good-heartedness. He was Toronto baseball for a decade, and every star this city has from his tenure forward will be trying to measure up to the benchmark he created as to what it means to mean the world to Toronto sports fans.

And if you’ll allow me the indulgence, this tweet is the start of a thread of a close personal memory I have with Halladay and my late grandfather, who passed away this summer:

The Raptors will hold a moment of silence for Halladay tonight.

Anyway, the Chicago Bulls are visiting as the Raptors look to get back on the winning side of the ledger and shake off a largely terrible performance from Sunday. They’ve taken care of the Bulls once already this season and should be looking to come out just as dominant, mad at having squandered opportunities twice in the last three games. Kyle Lowry, in particular, would seem a good bet for his first breakout game of the season. If they come out flat again, Dwane Casey might be liable to start the entire bench on Thursday.

The game tips off at 7:30 on TSN and Sportsnet 590. You can check out the full game preview here.

Raptors updates
Toronto comes in healthy other than some bumps and bruises. The big focus will be on whether they can get off to a good start or if the starting unit will continue to struggle. While the frontcourt pairing there isn’t the most seamless fit, it’s not changing any time soon, and the group as a quintet really should be better, on paper, as the sample grows. They’ve played just five games together this year for a total of 71 minutes. That same fivesome only played zero minutes together last season and three minutes in the playoffs. They only started one preseason game with that group. In other words, they need some time still, even if well-paid players face the fair expectation of a quick learning curve.

For his part, Powell’s played better on offense of late, and his explanation of his role at shootaround today was enjoyable.

“Just figuring out where I fit in in the offence with the starters. I [don’t] think it really was a slump but it was just more of me being hesitant in the starting line-up trying to feel it out, trying to play off of Kyle, DeMar, Serge and JV, trying to find my niche with them and just talking to them, talking to the coaches it was just about being aggressive and doing what I normally do and sacrificing where I need to sacrifice but still being aggressive in my play,” he said. “Me, my thing is just running the floor, getting open, trying to speed the game up for them because they’re old. They try to [ease] in and let the game come to them. I’ve got to be the young guy that’s energetic and moving fast to get them going.”

PG: Kyle Lowry, Delon Wright, Fred VanVleet
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
OUT: None
TBD: None
905: Malcolm Miller, Lorenzo Brown, Alfonzo McKinnie

Bulls updates
Chicago is still dealing with plenty of injury. Zach LaVine, Cameron Payne, and Nikola Mirotic are varying distances away from returning, and David Nwaba is the latest to join them on the shelf. Nwaba had just been moved into the starting lineup in place of Paul Zipser but suffered a severe ankle sprain and is going to miss two-to-four weeks. Zipser will move back into the starting lineup, so unless there’s a change in the point guard rotation, the Bulls will have the same starters as in the earlier meeting between the sides.

They will have two new bench pieces, though, in Kris Dunn and Bobby Portis. Dunn, a defensive pest who struggled mightily on offense as a rookie, has been playing behind incumbent starter Jerian Grant, a situation that could be fluid throughout the year depending on how each plays. Portis returns to the frontcourt rotation following an eight-game suspension, and it feels a bit ludicrous that Portis is back in the lineup before Mirotic, but here we are. Fred Hoiberg confirmed that Portis will be the backup at the four.

PG: Jerian Grant, Kris Dunn, Kay Felder
SG: Justin Holiday, Denzel Valentine
SF: Paul Zipser, Quincy Pondexter
PF: Lauri Markannen, Bobby Portis
C: Robin Lopez, Cristiano Felicio
OUT: Zach LaVine, Cameron Payne, Nikola Mirotic, David Nwaba
TBD: None
Windy City: Ryan Arcidiacono, Antonio Blakeney


The line
The Raptors are 10.5-point favorites with a 203 over-under. The line hasn’t moved much throughout the day, a rare bit of stability with neither side having any statuses up in the air. The Raptors would probably like to blow that spread out of the water and treat the Bulls like they did in their first meeting. Free Bruno.

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