The Raptors continue to play out the string in Chicago, where the banged up Bulls are fighting for playoff positioning in the East.
Start time: 8:00 PM ET
Channel: Sportsnet One
Probable starting lineups
Toronto: Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, Rudy Gay, Amir Johnson, Jonas Valanciunas
Chicago: Kirk Hinrich, Marco Belinelli, Jimmy Butler, Carlos Boozer, Nazr Mohammed
Toronto: Andrea Bargnani is out
Chicago: Joakim Noah, Luol Deng, Taj Gibson and Derrick Rose are all out
- The Bulls are severely shorthanded right now and are relying on some lesser known names to get them through this rough patch, but they’re still a good defensive team headed for the playoffs and playing for a lot more than the Raptors currently are. Do the Raps have a better shot to win in Chicago than they would if the Bulls were healthy? Of course, but that doesn’t mean they should be expected to win. There’s a reason the line is Chicago by 4.5.
- I’m disappointed that we’re going to be robbed of a potential Valanciunas vs. Noah matchup again, as it was JV that was out of the lineup when these two teams met up for an overtime thriller in Toronto a few months ago. If you recall, Dwane Casey famously said in the summer that Noah pretty much represented Valanciunas’ floor. Given the kind of guy Joakim is, you have to figure he heard about it one way or another and would have come out looking to make a statement against the Eastern Conference rookie of the month.
- The Bulls are currently holding down the fifth spot in the Eastern Conference, but they can realistically finish anywhere from fourth to seventh, as they’re just two games back of Brooklyn for fourth and just 2.5 games ahead of Boston, who’s in seventh. While it’s a far cry from their position atop the East the last two seasons, the fact that Chicago is still a factor at all considering all of their injuries this season is a testament to Tom Thibodeau.
- At the other end of the standings, the Raptors can still realistically finish anywhere from the fifth-worst record to the 11th-worst record (currently 9th-worst). Weak draft or not, there’s a big difference between giving up a top-five pick for Kyle Lowry and giving up a late lottery pick. I still see the Raps forfeiting a pick in the 8-10 range.