Raptors-Bulls Preview

Kyle Lowry has been linked to trade reports in recent weeks. If

he continues to play this well, however, the Toronto Raptors might

have a hard time letting him go.

Lowry will try to continue his hot stretch and lead the Raptors

to an eighth win in 11 tries Tuesday night when they visit the

Chicago Bulls.

After a 6-12 start, the Raptors (13-15) have been playing much

better during a 7-3 stretch, which includes a 99-77 win in Chicago

on Dec. 14. Lowry has been a crucial part of Toronto’s surge and

recorded a season-high 32 points along with 11 assists in a 115-100

home win over New York on Saturday to complete a home-and-home

sweep.

“He’s playing with such force and such confidence,” coach Dwane

Casey said. “He’s been playing the game the right way and he’s been

playing lights out. It’s really good for Kyle and I’m happy for

him.”

Despite having his name come up in trade rumors, Lowry is

averaging 22.4 points over his last five games while going 14 of 30

from 3-point range and posting a 4.6 assist-to-turnover ratio.

Lowry, whose contract expires at the end of the season, is

averaging career bests of 15.8 points and 7.3 assists.

“It is what it is,” Lowry said of the trade speculation. “I’m

not really worried about it. I’ve said it 50 million times and I’m

going to say it 50 more: Until something happens I’m a Raptor and

I’m going to play for the Raptors and I’m going to play hard for

the Raptors.”

Lowry was 7 of 14 for 16 points in the win over Chicago earlier

this month, but struggled in a 96-80 loss to the Bulls in Toronto

on Nov. 15, scoring six points on 3-of-15 shooting.

The Bulls (12-17) have won three of four despite being without

Luol Deng due to a sore left Achilles. However, they’re just 1-5 in

their last six home games after starting 6-1. They’re averaging

78.2 points and 36.7 percent shooting in the last five losses at

the United Center.

With Deng sidelined for a fifth straight contest, Jimmy Butler

scored a season-high 26 points in Monday’s 95-91 win in

Memphis.

“I’m getting real comfortable,” said Butler, who has missed 12

games due to injury. “I sat down with a few of the vets, and they

just talked to me and told me to play my game and have fun. When

you have fun, everything else takes care of itself.”

While Deng is considered day-to-day, coach Tom Thibodeau was on

the sideline Monday night after missing the team’s morning

shootaround to attend his father’s funeral in Connecticut.

“Our family, once I saw they were good, I felt good about

(coaching),” Thibodeau said.

Perimeter defense has been a key part of Chicago’s last three

victories, with opponents being held to 22.5 percent shooting from

beyond the arc.

The Raptors are hitting 41.8 percent of their 3-pointers over

their last five games with Terrence Ross going 18 for 31.