The Bulls (5-5) travel “north of the border” to Toronto, Ont., to face the hometown Raptors (5-4) in the first of a straight game between the teams. Today’s game also marks Chicago’s fourth game in six days and the Bulls’ fourth (of 13) straight game this season. The series moves to Chicago tomorrow night with a slightly later than normal warning set at 7:45 p.m.
As for tonight’s game, here are some things to watch (5:00 p.m. CST tipoff – NBC Sports Chicago):
The Bulls are coming off a stinging 123-119 loss at Boston on Friday despite DeMar DeRozan scoring a season-high 46 points. The loss also ended a two-game winning streak for the Bulls. Toronto also saw a two-game winning streak shattered on Friday as the Raptors fell to Dallas, 111-110, with Pascal Siakam exiting early with a groin injury.
DeRozan delivered his best performance of the season, connecting on 13 of 23 shots, while knocking down 20 of 22 free throw attempts. Nikola Vučević also had his fifth double-double this season with 24 points and 12 rebounds, while Zach LaVine had 16 points and seven rebounds.
For the season, DeRozan leads the Bulls’ offense with 25.6 points per game, while LaVine is Chicago’s second-leading scorer with 20.7. Vučević rounds out the Bulls’ Big 3 with averages of 16.4 points and 12.3 rebounds. Against Boston, Vučević sizzled from the perimeter, hitting 10 of 14 overall and 4 of 5 from deep.
High-flying offenses get you noticed, but hard-nosed defense wins games. Today’s and tomorrow’s Bulls/Raptors tilt seems like a rambling, fiery, and murderous battle of wills between two of the NBA’s best defensive teams.
Overall, the Bulls haven’t been a dynamic offensive threat, ranking 19th in scoring (112.2). However, defensively, they more than held on. Chicago now ranks 2nd in opponent turnovers (17.4), 2nd in scoring opponent turnovers (22.4), 3rd in keeping opponents out of the offensive glass (8.1), 4th in deviations (19.1), 8th in defensive rating (108.7), and 10th in opponent score (110.2).
Toronto’s defensive resume is equally impressive. Much like the Bulls, they haven’t been an offensive juggernaut, ranking 15th (113.4), but defensively the Raptors rank 5th in opposing scoring (106.3). They also rank 6th in opponent turnovers (16.2) and they’re just behind the Bulls at No. 3 in scoring those turnovers (21.9). They’re also No. 1 in the NBA in steals (10.7) and No. 1 in keeping enemies out of the offensive glass (7.8) for easy-to-return scores.
For the Bulls to emerge victorious today (and tomorrow), they will need to maintain their defensive intensity by playing a physical game, denying the Raptors opportunities to get out on the break and find open looks at the rim. Chicago have won four of the last five games between them, but that doesn’t mean much right now because it’s a brand new season.
Both teams could also miss a few key players today, as Chicago’s Zach LaVine (left knee management) is listed as questionable, as well as top backups Andre Drummond (sprained left shoulder) and Coby White (contusion of the left quadriceps) declared completely absent. . Toronto’s Pascal Siakam (groin strain) was also listed as questionable. However, the status of Toronto’s top guard, Fred VanVleet, has become questionable. Their dynamic playmaker has missed recent games with a squeaky back.