If the Toronto Raptors were allowed to select an opponent on the second night of a back-to-back after dropping a tough overtime road game in Boston and knowing they would be without Norman Powell, C.J. Miles, and likely Kawhi Leonard and OG Anunoby, you’d have to imagine there wouldn’t be many teams that would rank above the 2018-19 Chicago Bulls.
The Bulls record is the exact opposite of the Raptors going into Saturday night’s game, but the two teams do share matching three-game losing streaks. Chicago’s four wins on the season have come against the Charlotte Hornets, Atlanta Hawks, New York Knicks and Cleveland Cavaliers, but with the injury list and potential load management of Leonard, the Raptors can ill-afford to take this team lightly.
After all, Toronto will want to do everything in their power to avoid extending their losing streak to four games, and also work at some of the issues that have plagued them during this struggle. Fourth quarter execution has been a big problem, with the Raptors having turned the ball over 18 times in 36 minutes while being outscored by 22 points.
On the defensive end, the Raptors have struggled to contain dribble penetration of late and Zach LaVine will be sure to test that out. He’s been balling out thus far this season, averaging 25.9 points, 5.5 rebounds and four assists per game and has quickly hushed those who criticized his four-year, $78 million reward over the summer. One aspect of his game that has dropped off considerably is his three-point shooting. The 23-year-old has shot a ghastly 16-for-63 (25.4 percent) from downtown over his last 11 games after starting out the season making 42.4 percent over his first five games.
Kyle Lowry is in a similar funk, having made just 15 of his last 62 (24.2 percent) three-point attempts.
If there is something for the Raptors to breathe a sigh of relief over, it’s that the Bulls have been just as bad in fourth quarters of late. Over their past three games, Chicago has turned the ball over 15 times in the final frame while getting outscored by 21 points.
The Bulls are also on the second night of a back-to-back, and are fresh off seeing a 22-point first half lead evaporate into thin air in Milwaukee as the Bucks stormed back to win by 19. The second half score read 78-41, no-defence-Jabari staying true to form against his former team.
With the lack of wing depth, expect Delon Wright to take on a significant role in this game with not only his ability to defend multiple positions, but also the fact that the Bulls have been giving plenty of minutes to Ryan Arcidiacono, Shaquille Harrison, and Antonio Blakeney as a result of their own depleted roster. Perhaps Fred VanVleet, too, can find some good vibes in front of his hometown fans.
In the front court, Wendell Carter Jr. presents similar challenges to Al Horford, so expect Serge Ibaka to get the nod once again to start, with Jonas Valanciunas likely to matchup against Robin Lopez off the bench. Carter Jr. has had an impressive start to his NBA career, averaging 11.5 points, 7.6 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.9 blocks through 16 games. He’s not afraid to shoot the three either, having made five of his 17 attempts thus far.
This could also be a night for the Raptors 905 to make their mark, so it will be interesting to see if the likes of Jordan Loyd, Malachi Richardson and Chris Boucher can take advantage of any opportunity handed to them.
Time: 8:00 p.m. ET / 5:00 p.m. PT.
TV: TSN. Radio: TSN 1050.
OG Anunoby left the game against the Boston Celtics and did not return due to a sprained right wrist. Norman Powell is out for a while yet and C.J. Miles is not expected back this road trip. It’d be hard to imagine Kawhi Leonard playing any part in this one after playing 43 high leverage minutes against the Celtics.
PG: Kyle Lowry, Delon Wright, Fred VanVleet, Lorenzo Brown, Jordan Loyd
SG: Danny Green
SF: Malachi Richardson
PF: Pascal Siakam
C: Serge Ibaka, Jonas Valanciunas, Greg Monroe, Chris Boucher
TBD: OG Anunoby, Kawhi Leonard
OUT: C.J. Miles, Norman Powell
Lauri Markkanen, who was dealt a tough blow in preseason with a right elbow sprain, has increased his workload during practice but is still expected to miss another 1-2 weeks. Kris Dunn is also still on the mend after suffering a moderate left MCL sprain. Denzel Valentine has no timetable to return after initially being projected to miss a couple of weeks after tweaking his ankle during training camp. Bobby Portis suffered a sprained MCL in his right knee in the final week of October and so will miss another week or two.
PG: Ryan Arcidiacono, Shaquille Harrison, Antonio Blakeney, Cameron Payne
SG: Zach LaVine
SF: Justin Holiday
PF: Jabari Parker, Chandler Hutchison
C: Wendell Carter Jr., Robin Lopez, Christiano Felicio
OUT: Lauri Markkanen, Kris Dunn, Denzel Valentine, Bobby Portis
The Raptors are 8-point favorites and the over/under is set at 218.