We’re nearing that point in the season where some fans will be turning their attention towards the draft (always draft best player available, my dudes. More on that coming from me at a later date), while others are holding out some modicum of hope that their team has enough gas in the tank to actually make a playoff run.
Funnily enough, that description can be used for both Raptors fans and Bulls fans. Though the Bulls have the benefit of having a bit more wiggle room with regards to the current playoff picture as well as their own roster construction.
Raps are coming off a loss to the hospitalized Lakers, while the Bulls are on a 2 game streak after beating Indiana and Brooklyn.
Let’s get into it.
Alright look, we had some brief euphoria with the Raptors delivering an absolute beatdown to what was essentially the Santa Cruz Warriors, shortly followed by a game winner from Starboy over the Washington Wizards.
Then the Lakers reminded us that this season hasn’t really been going our way and it’s likely going to continue down that route.
It started when OG Anunoby cashed in his Money in the Bank briefcase before promptly flipping Dennis Schroder like a cheap piece of bacon from Loblaws. Evidently, the Prince knows it’s Mania season in Tampa. From there it was pretty much the Lakers dictating the pace of the game, and it ended with Los Angeles defeating the Dinos for the first time since 2014.
Because if there was anything we needed this season, it was for LA to be even more annoying.
As much as I would love to bond with you all over a communal dislike of the Lakers, I think we’d all rather keep our eyes on the game today.
The Bulls run into town today, and they’re coming in on a streak of 2 wins under their belt against some semi-decent to good teams… which is more than what the Raptors are able to say as of late. The Bulls look different from when they last matched up with the Raptors (Chicago won that matchup 118-95, despite 32 points from Norm), as they’ve now added a second all star to the lineup in Nicola Vucevic.
Since arriving in the Windy City, Vucevic has no doubt provided an offensive boost and overall extensive frontcourt upgrade for the Bulls. Since the deadline, he’s been posting averages of 22/11/4 on 51/36/89 shooting splits. That’s more or less in line with his production all season, so expect him to come out swinging like he always does. He didn’t perform great against the Raptors during Orlando’s 2 losses to them earlier in the season, but he still gobbled up rebounds which is something to keep an eye on. With Zach Lavine healthy and as Chicago’s primary scoring option, Vucevic is also going to be able to do less heavy lifting on offence; a luxury he didn’t have in Orlando.
Speaking of Zach Lavine, can I gush about Zach Lavine for a moment? Man, he’s awesome. Averages of 27/5/5, shooting splits of 51/42/85, he’s just so good. I want one. Can the Raptors get a Lavine please?
We may not have a Lavine, but we do have Gary Trent Jr., who has been lighting it up since being traded to Toronto. Starboy has been averaging 16/3/1 on 42/39/75 splits since deadline. Room for improvement for the youngest player on the Raptors, but he’s won our hearts and that’s what matters. Speaking of young, Malachi Flynn has been showing some stride with the minutes he’s been given. Took him a while to get there, but he’s been putting up some decent numbers with Fred and Kyle both on the pine. We’ll see if he can keep it up as long as the two floor generals remain sidelined.
The Bulls are currently in a play-in spot as the 10th seed while sitting 2 games above Toronto. If Toronto wins, it brings them to 1 game back of that play-in spot. A loss would further widen the gap between the Raptors and any playoff hopes they still have at this point. It’ll be a tough one. The Bulls already beat Toronto earlier in the season when Lavine underperformed and they also didn’t have Vucevic. The Raptors are coming into this game with a depleted lineup just like they did on March 14th, so it’ll be interesting to see which version of the team we get tonight as they’ve still shown the ability to fight even with an injury-plagued roster.
Tip: 7:30pm EST | TV: TSN | Radio: TSN 1050
Holy moly the injury report for both teams… Toronto is without Kyle Lowry (toe), Fred VanVleet (hip), Jalen Harris (hip), Patrick McCaw (knee), Rodney Hood (hip), and Paul Watson (health & safety protocols)
PG: DeAndre Bembry, Malachi Flynn
SG: Gary Trent Jr.
SF: OG Anunoby, Stanley Johnson
PF: Pascal Siakam, Yuta Watanabe
C: Chris Boucher, Aron Baynes
Zach Lavine (ankle), Coby White (neck), Lauri Markkanen (leg) are all probable. Garrett Temple (hamstring), Devon Dotson (not with team) and Adam Mokoka (not with team) are out.
PG: Tomas Satoransky, Coby White, Ryan Arcidiacono
SG: Zach Lavine, Denzel Valentine
SF: Pat Williams, Troy Brown Jr.
PF: Thaddeus Young, Lauri Markkanen, Al-Farouq Aminu
C: Nicola Vucevic, Daniel Theis, Christiano Felicio
Line TBA, but fellas, I would be pessimistic on the Raptors here.