After back-to-back losses to Orlando and Boston as Carlos Boozer joined the Bulls’ lineup on December 1, Chicago has reeled off six straight wins and they’re obviously going to have homecourt advantage in the first round of the playoffs barring multiple catastrophic injuries. Tom Thibodeau has had the desired effect as their new coach — the Bulls are third in the league in Defensive Rating with 101.4 points allowed per 100 possessions.
The Bulls seem to have what it takes to be a legitimate championship contender — they have a superstar scorer in Derrick Rose, a strong frontcourt with Boozer and Joakim Noah, a decent third option on the wing with Luol Deng, and a deep bench with Taj Gibson, Kyle Korver and Ronnie Brewer. I’m not certain if they’ll be able to beat the Celtics or Heat in a seven-game series, but I’m pretty sure they’ll put up a good fight.
So what are the Raptors’ chances of pulling off an upset tonight at the Air Canada Centre? Not very good, although they might catch a break if one or more key Bulls opt to sit out tonight to heal their injuries. (See below.)
Toronto: Jose Calderon is doubtful for tonight, which suits Jerryd Bayless and I just fine.
Chicago: Derrick Rose will be a game-time decision with a variety of owies while Joakim Noah is probable with a banged-up hand.
1. Now that the Bulls are on a roll and have Boozer back, should they completely opt out of the Carmelo Anthony sweepstakes?
2. Have you noticed that Rose is a deep threat now? He’s shooting 42.1 percent from beyond the arc this season.
3. If the game is close late in the fourth quarter, should the Raptors use a “Hack-a-Bull” strategy? Chicago is 28th in free throw shooting percentage this season.
4. Did you know that, on December 4, Derrick Rose was only the second player since 2006 to take at least 28 field goal attempts in a game without going to the free throw line? Surprisingly, the other guy to do it was Kevin Martin in October 2009.
5. Do you agree with Gerry Dee that “Jerry-D Bayless” should change his name?
Start time: 7:00 PM ET
Liveblog: James Borbath on theScore.com and ScoreMobile
Probable starting lineups
Toronto: Jerryd Bayless, DeMar DeRozan, Sonny Weems, Amir Johnson, Andrea Bargnani
Chicago: Derrick Rose, Keith Bogans, Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer, Joakim Noah
Tonight’s pregame song is another holiday ditty, this one by noted sports songstress Kathy Anderson. It’s a Bargnani-themed remix of “All I Want for Christmas”.