The Toronto Raptors have lost 17 of their last 24 games and
won’t have their superstar for the rest of the regular season after
he suffered a facial fracture earlier this week.
In the race for the Eastern Conference’s final playoff spot,
that’s still enough to keep them in the driver’s seat – for
The Chicago Bulls have done little over the past week to take
advantage of the Raptors’ ongoing woes, but they’ll get a chance to
add to them Sunday at Air Canada Centre in a game that could all
but decide the No. 8 seed.
Toronto (38-41) was in fifth place in the East and had its
sights set on earning home-court advantage for the first round as
of Feb. 23, when it held a 2 1/2-game lead on the sixth-place Bulls
A 10-game losing streak with Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah
sidelined dropped Chicago temporarily out of the playoff picture,
while the Raptors have been in a prolonged slump.
Things appeared to be looking up after a three-game winning
streak from March 29-April 3, but Toronto has lost its last four –
the last three without Chris Bosh. The five-time All-Star suffered
a nasal fracture in a loss at Cleveland on Tuesday, and the Raptors
fell 115-104 to Boston the next night and 107-101 in Atlanta on
Friday to briefly fall a half-game behind the Bulls.
“It ain’t going our way, man,” guard Sonny Weems said. “It’s
The Raptors caught a break less than an hour later. Chicago,
which fell to Milwaukee on Tuesday before beating a Cleveland team
without LeBron James on Thursday, lost 127-116 in double overtime
at New Jersey – its second loss to the NBA-worst Nets.
“I hope this makes us stronger, because we have to play tougher
to get into the playoffs,” said Rose, who had 25 points before
fouling out in the second overtime. “We just have to fight through
it. The next one is very important. We only have a small amount of
games and there is no room for error now.”
Toronto leads the season series 2-0, so it’ll own the tiebreaker
regardless of Sunday’s result. The only way the Bulls can make the
playoffs with a loss would be to close with wins over Boston and at
Charlotte while the Raptors lose at Detroit and at home against the
New York Knicks.
Should Chicago win Sunday, Toronto would only need the Bulls to
slip up once provided it can win its last two.
“It’s like a playoff game already,” Weems said.
The Raptors have some injury concerns aside from Bosh, who had
averaged 24.4 points, 12.6 rebounds and 2.6 steals in leading
Toronto to five straight wins over Chicago. Hedo Turkoglu,
averaging just 7.6 points in his last eight games, bumped heads
with Boston’s Tony Allen on Wednesday and is wearing a protective
The bad luck continued when guard Antoine Wright sprained his
ankle late in the third quarter against the Hawks. He’s unlikely to
play Sunday, leaving the Raptors without perhaps their best
Noah, the Bulls’ top defensive presence, is starting to see his
minutes increase as he recovers from plantar fasciitis. He played
nearly 36 minutes in the loss to the Nets – his most since Jan. 20
– but logged only 12 seconds spanning the two overtimes.
Coach Vinny Del Negro said that was because Noah had reached his
35-minute limit, but according to the Bulls’ official Web site,
general manager Gar Forman gave Del Negro the go-ahead to play Noah
in the extra sessions.