Game 29: Chicago Bulls (16-12) versus Toronto Raptors (19-12)
Location: United Center – Chicago
Time: 7:00 p.m. central
TV: Comcast SportsNet Chicago, Sportsnet One
The Bulls return home after a two-game road trip Monday night to face the Toronto Raptors for the first time this season.
The Raptors are coming into Monday night’s matchup as the fourth best offensive team per ESPN’s John Hollinger. The Bulls, on the other hand, sit at No. 27. Despite that, the Bulls are still averaging more points per game than the Raptors are, but it’s only by a slim margin. The Bulls are putting up 100.9 points per game while the Raptors are just behind at 100.1 points per game.
Defensively, though, the Raptors have an advantage, as they have only given up 96.4 points per game thus far. The Bulls have given up 100.1 points per game so far, but it’s not like the Bulls don’t have the ability to play defense at a high level. The problem for the Bulls is that they haven’t been able to maintain their defense enough to keep whatever leads they’ve built up — as was seen in their loss to the Dallas Mavericks.
The Bulls can take advantage of the Raptors’ poor defensive coverage of the 3-point line, though. The Raptors are coming in allowing their opponents to shoot 36.8 percent from deep, the fourth-worst percentage in the league. Meanwhile, the Bulls are the fifth-best team in terms of defending threes, allowing opponents to shoot just 33 percent.
Both the Bulls and Raptors shoot similar 3-point percentages, so as long as the Bulls can effectively utilize their 3-point shooters and keep up their defense behind the arc, they’ll at least have that over their opponents.
Matchup of the Game
The Bulls’ starting backcourt versus the Raptors’ starting backcourt
DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry best out the Bulls’ starting backcourt of Jimmy Butler and Derrick Rose when it comes to scoring averages: DeRozan and Lowry account for 43.4 points per game while Butler and Rose combine for 35.6 points per game. In fact, DeRozan and Lowry are the Raptors’ top two scorers, and the same can’t be said for Butler and Rose — Pau Gasol is the Bulls’ second-leading scorer.
The thing is, though, Butler and Rose very well could — and probably should — be the Bulls’ leading scorers as well as the best backcourt in the league. But they have yet to prove that, and DeRozan and Lowry have put up a fight for that title. Because of that, this battle of the backcourts could give an added factor of competition for MOnday’s game.
Dec. 26: Bulls fall to Dallas Mavericks, 118-111
The Bulls are coming off a tough 118-111 loss to the Mavericks that they suffered on Saturday. The Bulls held a double-digit lead in the second quarter, but closed out the quarter poorly, allowing the Mavericks to trail by just one.
This put the Mavericks in a good position to take control in the third quarter — and they did by building up an eight-point lead — but the Bulls retaliated and cut their deficit to one by the end of the period.
From there, the game remained close, but turnovers proved costly for the Bulls, who then had to resort to plying the foul game to win. The Mavericks, however, overcame that and ran away with the victory.
December 26: Raptors defeat Milwaukee Bucks, 111-90
The Raptors saved their best for last in Saturday night’s win over the Bucks, scoring 35 points in the fourth quarter. They trailed the Bucks 79-76 after the third quarter, but managed to put together their best quarter in the fourth, outscoring holding the Bucks to 11 points.
Ashley is the owner/editor of The Bulls Charge. Follow her on Twitter at @wijangco12.