Raptors wary of Bulls’ team that just stunned Cavaliers

CHICAGO — If the Toronto Raptors are going to continue to be one of the Eastern Conference’s elite teams, coach Dwane Casey acknowledges his team has to put forth a balanced effort.

Casey, who has built his reputation on defense, wants the Raptors to thrive on both ends of the floor. But he knows there will be nights like the one Toronto had Thursday when the Raptors didn’t lead the Utah Jazz until the final minutes of a 101-93 victory.

Now, the Raptors must deal Saturday night with an up and down Chicago Bulls team that has experienced its share of drama, but that has played well against the NBA’s top teams.

And in order to become the Bulls’ latest victim after Chicago knocked off defending champion Cleveland 106-94 Wednesday night, Casey knows the Raptors can’t depend solely on either their offense or their defense.

“I want to be successful on both sides,” Casey told reporters after Thursday night, according to The Globe and Mail.

Entering Friday night, the Raptors rank third in 3-point field goal percentage (38.9). Toronto connected on 8 of 21 3-point attempts against Utah. Kyle Lowry, who scored a game-high 33 points, was 4-of-8 from behind the arc for Toronto (24-11), which didn’t grab its first lead until DeMar DeRozan hit a pull-up jumper to give the Raptors an 89-88 lead.

As they have throughout the season, the Raptors continued to rely on the 3-pointer, which Casey told reporters likely won’t change.

“I think we’ve adjusted our philosophy here to take in that change, to shoot the three,” Casey said, according to The Globe and Mail. “Some shots I would have said five or six years ago that were bad shots, are good shots.”

Meanwhile, who will lead the Bulls offense as the season progresses remains a point of contention, depending on who you ask.

Media reports this week suggested that Chicago (18-18) is shopping guard Jimmy Butler, who is averaging 25.2 points per game. But on Friday, fellow guard Dwyane Wade shot down the suggestion and said the rumors were based largely on the size of the market the Bulls play in.

On Friday, Wade referred to Butler as the cornerstone of the franchise.

“It’s the Bulls. Our best player is in a rumor right now,” Wade told reporters on Friday. “It doesn’t matter. It’s been a rumor every week, but it hasn’t happened. It’s a big market — something to talk about. A couple of extra (web) hits. It’s the way the world works, the world we’re in. Somebody decided to write something with no merit.”

Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg, whose job security has also been a point of discussion, refused to lend credence to the reports that the Bulls could be looking to be move their star player. Chicago enters Saturday night’s game having won two straight games and four of their last six.

“I’m not going to comment on the rumors,” Hoiberg told reporters Friday.

Asked if he was surprised by the speculation, Hoiberg said he wasn’t.

“That’s the world we live in, unfortunately,” Hoiberg said.