Mar 14, 2016; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry (7) drives to the basket against Chicago Bulls forward Jimmy Butler (21) at Air Canada Centre. The Bulls beat the Raptors 109-107. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports
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Fresh off two days of rest, the Chicago Bulls will square off against the Toronto Raptors at home.
Party time, people! The Bulls are on a two game win streak!
With wins over the Charlotte Hornets and Cleveland Cavaliers, the Bulls are now favorite to win the title! (Pardon, I’m being told this is actually not true, and that I’m giving Bulls fans a bad image by making us look like New York Knicks fans… yikes!). But hey, this season has been full of ups and downs, and so a two-game win streak is good news.
Despite Toronto having a very talented squad, they are 24-11 right now, good for second in the Eastern Conference, Chicago did not have any problems defeating them last year. In fact, Chicago swept the season series, going 4-0.
Unfortunately for the Bulls, drama can’t seem to escape the team. Just as we thought things might get back to normal – or at least feel normal – with the Rajon Rondo fiasco and Fred Hoiberg on the hot seat events slowly dying down, rumors had to start popping up saying the Bulls are “shopping” Jimmy Butler.
As fun as it is to speculate on trade rumors (and create our own), that’s not the point of this piece, so let’s get to it! Here’s some things to look out for in tonight’s game!
Mar 14, 2016; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Chicago Bulls forward Jimmy Butler (21) defends against Toronto Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan (10) at Air Canada Centre. The Bulls beat the Raptors 109-107. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports
Butler vs. DeRozan
With Dwyane Wade back in the lineup after dealing with a swollen left knee against the Hornets, he “officially” will be the starting shooting guard for the Bulls, matched up against DeMar DeRozan of the Raptors.
Unofficially and obviously, however, Butler will be the one guarding DeRozan throughout the game.
Butler has faced several tough matchups thus far, but he is going against DeRozan for the first time this year, and DeRozan has improved a lot since last season.
Despite not scoring many three pointers, DeRozan is averaging 27.4 points, 3.9 assists, 5.1 rebounds and 1.3 steals per game. Every stat listed except for assists, which is 0.1 off, is a career high for the 27 year old.
DeRozan has built his game on slashing and the mid-range, and although he is only shooting 24 percent from deep this season, it hasn’t seemed to matter.
So the question is, can Butler, already tasked with the majority of the load on offense, stop a player of DeRozan’s caliber on defense too?
We might not know that yet, but we do know that tonight’s matchup will be very exciting to watch.
Jan 4, 2017; Cleveland, OH, USA; Chicago Bulls guard Dwyane Wade (3) drives to the basket between Cleveland Cavaliers center Tristan Thompson (13) and guard James Jones (1) during the second half at Quicken Loans Arena. The Bulls won 106-94. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
Will Dwyane Wade Struggle?
As I mentioned in the previous slide, Wade was out on Monday night due to a swollen left knee.
Wade did play against his friend and former teammate LeBron James on Wednesday, but he played poorly throughout the entire game. He finished with 10 points on 3-of-9 shooting, four assists, and four turnovers.
The question for tonight’s game is whether or not Wade can play well for the Bulls like he has all season; he’s averaging 18.5 points, 3.7 assists and 4.1 rebounds per game, and if the Bulls want to have any chance of winning tonight, Wade will need to do better than he did against the Cavs.
With two full days of rest since playing Cleveland, chances are Wade’s knee is healed and he’ll be ready to go. That being said, there’s a possibility of him being on a minutes restriction, or just playing fewer minutes than his season average of 30.
When Wade is healthy and playing well, he helps the Bulls offense flow and can make some difficult shots that boost Chicago’s confidence. The Bulls will need that from Wade tonight in order to get the W.
Jan 4, 2017; Cleveland, OH, USA; Chicago Bulls guard Michael Carter-Williams (7) drives to the basket against Cleveland Cavaliers forward Channing Frye (8) during the second half at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
Young Guys are Getting Their Chance to Shine
Although Hoiberg only used nine players in Wednesday’s win over the Cavaliers, five of those players were young guys for the Bulls: Doug McDermott, Jerian Grant, Cristiano Felicio, Nikola Mirotic, and Michael Carter-Williams.
For players like McDermott and Mirotic, earning playing time is easy. For others such as Felicio or Grant, getting to play in games is much more difficult and inconsistent.
Either way, it’s good and important that the Bulls are letting their young players get on the floor for a good amount of time, as it helps them develop and gives the Bulls a chance to see what they like or don’t like about a player beyond just practice.
With Rondo remaining buried on the bench, Carter-Williams is likely to get the start tonight for Chicago. That also means that Grant will serve as the backup point guard. In the front court, Felicio has been playing recently behind Robin Lopez.
The only young player for Chicago who has not been playing at all recently is Bobby Portis (and Paul Zipser, but nobody is expecting him to get minutes right now), and that’s something the Bulls should consider changing.
Overall, though, the Bulls are giving their young players time on the court, and lately it has paid off. Carter-Williams, McDermott, and Mirotic all had strong performances in Chicago’s last game, but by giving minutes to the younger guys, having one bad game like Grant did on Wednesday won’t immediately kick them out of the rotation.