It’s Valentine’s Day and your Toronto Raptors have some holiday-appropriate words for you.
While some are out celebrating with loved ones, the Raptors will be going head-to-head with quite the opposite, visiting the Chicago Bulls. And while the Bulls no longer really have that 808s & Heartbreak hold on the Raptors like they used to in the past, they’re not the easiest of outs. Or they haven’t been, at least, with the Raptors beating them three times but only the season-opening meeting containing true garbage time.
The Bulls look just a little different here after a few trade deadline tweaks and have won two of their last three. The Raptors, meanwhile, are going for just the fourth seven-game winning streak in franchise history, something they’ve knocked on the door of two earlier times already this year only to lose the momentum after six games. Win, and the Raptors can hit the All-Star break feeling good, riding a wave of momentum, and holding a lead of at least one game, maybe as many as two, atop the Eastern Conference. Lose, and it might be a little tougher to relax for the early parts of a week off. Plus, the better you play, the more likely it is a special Valentine will be waiting in those post-game DMs.
The game tips off at 8 Sportsnet One and TSN 1050. You can check out the full game preview here.
Barring a late surprise inactive, it’s the same hands on deck as usual here. OG Anunoby may once again have his minutes limited to monitor his ankle and keep Norman Powell in the rotation, one of the three G League taxi squad should be active in the 13th man role, and the Raptors will probably try to put the Bulls away early enough that Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan can go back to not playing the fourth.
As an update since there’s not much to talk about on a quiet second day of a back-to-back, here’s a look at how some of Toronto’s most commonly used lineups are doing:
- The starters: 601 minutes (third of any unit in the league), plus-12 net rating (fourth among groups with 300+ minutes).
- The starters with Powell: 163 minutes, minus-5.1 net rating.
- The all-bench group: 157 minutes, plus-27.6 net rating (second among groups with 100+ minutes).
- The all-bench with Powell in place of Miles: 83 minutes, plus-8.1 net rating.
PG: Kyle Lowry, Delon Wright, Fred VanVleet
SG: DeMar DeRozan, Norman Powell, , Malachi Richardson
SF: OG Anunoby, C.J. Miles, Malcolm Miller
PF: Serge Ibaka, Pascal Siakam, Alfonzo McKinnie
C: Jonas Valanciunas, Jakob Poeltl, Lucas Nogueira
OUT: Lorenzo Brown
Kris Dunn has been cleared to return after passing through the league’s concussion protocol. Dunn will start but be capped around 20 minutes, according to Fred Hoiberg. This will mark his first game action since Jan. 17 and his first real chance to build some chemistry with Zach LaVine, as the two only overlapped for three games before Dunn went down, logging 38 minutes together.
This gives Hoiberg some nice options and additional flexibility, pushing the rotation to a legitimate 10, maybe even 11 deep depending on how Noah Vonleh fits in. The projected starters were a slight positive in 34 minutes before Dunn’s injury, those same starters with Jerian Grant in Dunn’s place were only a minus-2 per-100 possessions in 102 minutes, and that stabilized trio of impressive rookie Lauri Markkanen, Justin Holiday, and seasoned vet Robin Lopez have accrued 1,140 minutes together now. Not great minutes, mind you, but if you believe that experience can help a unit, they shouldn’t have much trouble switching from Grant back to Dunn and continuing to work LaVine, who’s been pretty good given the circumstances, back in.
The Bulls don’t want to win in the big picture, so maybe this is all for naught. Still, there are enough decent pieces here to not overlook them down the stretch. At least, as Sean Highkin pointed out in our pre-game, until Cameron Payne and his massive negative on-off splits return after the break.
PG: Kris Dunn, Jerian Grant, Ryan Arcidiacono
SG: Zach LaVine, David Nwaba
SF: Justin Holiday, Denzel Valentine
PF: Lauri Markkanen, Paul Zipser, Noah Vonleh
C: Robin Lopez, Bobby Portis, Omer Asik, Cristiano Felicio
OUT: Cameron Payne
Windy City: Antonio Blakeney
- Raptors 905 are on All-Star break. Alfonzo McKinnie, Malachi Richardson, and Malcolm Miller all met up with the Raptors in Chicago following a game against Windy City last night. Lorenzo Brown is in a walking boot with a left ankle sprain.
- Over at Dime Magazine, I wrote about the 2011 Dunk Contest that included both DeRozan and Ibaka. The “Blake Griffin Kia” dunk contest is perhaps the most underrated dunk contest, and I managed to get a lot of really great quotes – and DeRozan/Ibaka trash-talk – for the piece.
- Over at The Athletic, I wrote about new Raptors prospect Malachi Richardson and a new challenge for the player development program.
- Over at Vice Sports, I wrote about the end of the Bruno Caboclo experiment in Toronto.
- The NBA needed to announce a Rising Stars Game replacement for Lonzo Ball. Somehow, it was not a Toronto Raptor. I don’t even know what to do with this anymore.
- The Last Two Minute Report from last night shows the following:
- Missed illegal screen call on Bam Adebayo (1:00)
- Missed foul call on Bam Adebayo on DeMar DeRozan along the baseline (0:13)
- Here’s this:
This one goes out to all the beautiful ladies out there. pic.twitter.com/R0s1Ry8bSE
— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) February 14, 2018
The Raptors are 7-point favorites with a 219.5 over-under. Seven might seem smallish given the gap in team quality, but it’s a road game on the second night of a back-to-back, which is worth a handful of points.