Bulls Weekly Preview: Pacers, Raptors, Hawks, Timberwolves – April 6-11th, 2021

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Bulls Weekly Preview: Pacers, Raptors, Hawks, Timberwolves – April 6-11th, 2021

Chicago Bulls

The playoff push starts now.

Meet the Opponents:

•   4/6 @ Pacers: (22-26): Are we a good team? No, really, we’re asking. 
•   4/8 @ Raptors (20-30): We’re going to be healthy this time, we swear! *looks at injury report below and then lets out a major Homer Simpson D’oh!*
•   4/8 @ Hawks (26-24):  First game of the season: 124-104.
•   4/11 @ Timberwolves (13-38): Oh, you think you’re about to start an easy stretch? Just wait until we make you doubt everything about your current existence. 

Bulls Roster Notes

Expected Starters:

1. Tomas Satoransky
2. Zach LaVine
3. Patrick Williams
4. Thaddeus Young
5. Nikola Vucevic

Unavailable/Injured: Garrett Temple OUT (hamstring), Daniel Theis DAY-TO-DAY (excused absence)

Opponent Roster Notes

Pacers Expected Starters:

1. Malcolm Brogdon
2. Caris LeVert
3. Doug McDermott
4. Domantas Sabonis
5. Myles Turner

Raptors Expected Starters:

1. Gary Trent Jr.
2. Fred VanVleet
3. OG Anunoby
4. Pascal Siakam
5. Chris Boucher

Hawks Expected Starters:

1. Trae Young
2. Bogdan Bogdanovic
3. Kevin Huerter
4. Solomon Hill
5. Clint Capela

Timberwolves Expected Starters:

1. D’Angelo Russell
2. Anthony Edwards
3. Josh Okogie
4. Jaden McDaniels
5. Karl-Anthony Towns

Unavailable/Injured (at the start of the week):

Pacers: Malcolm Brogdon QUESTIONABLE (hip), Domantas Sabonis QUESTIONABLE (ankle), Jeremy Lamb OUT (toe), T.J. Warren OUT (foot)

Raptors: Fred VanVleet QUESTIONABLE (hip), Kyle Lowry OUT (foot), Rodney Hood OUT (hip), Patrick McCaw OUT (knee), Paul Watson OUT (NBA Protocols), Jalen Harris OUT (hip)

Hawks: Kris Dunn OUT (ankle), De’Andre Hunter OUT (knee), John Collins OUT (ankle), Cam Reddish OUT (Achillies)

Timberwolves: Jaylen Nowell QUESTIONABLE (leg), Malik Beasley OUT (hamstring)

Injury updates via ESPN

What to Watch For …

Bulls: If the Chicago Bulls want a legitimate chance at sniffing the playoffs this season, the push has to start now. This week begins arguably the team’s easiest stretch of their second-half schedule, and thus it’s their easiest opportunity to move up the Eastern Conference standings. We saw a much more defensive-minded and controlled basketball team over the Bulls last three games, and that came against three of the league’s better teams (Suns, Jazz, and Nets). With that in mind, there is no reason to believe the Bulls can’t exit this week with a winning record if they continue that style of play.

This means continuing their newfound ability to limit turnovers (averaging just 8.0 over the last three games), getting to the free-throw line (22.7 FTAs per game), and limiting their fouls (11 against Nets were fewest all season). Likewise, we should watch Donovan’s rotation closely. The head coach has tried many different lineups since the deadline, which makes sense considering all the new talent, but I expect to see a more consistent look take shape this week.

Pacers: Before the trade deadline, the Chicago Bulls had all kinds of issues stopping high-level frontcourts, and that is exactly what the Pacers rely on. Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner recorded 36 points 16 rebounds, and 10(!) blocks in their last meeting with Chicago (and that was with an uncharacteristically tough shooting night for Sabonis). The question now is how much of an impact can Nikola Vucevic have on this duo’s success. For the Bulls to win, it better be a good amount.

Raptors: The last time the Bulls played the Raptors, they were missing Fred VanVleet, Pascal Siakam, and OG Anunoby. They also didn’t have the pesky Gary Trent Jr. on their roster. All things considered, this is still a team the Bulls should beat right now, but the Raptors have enough individually talented players to give any team a scare on any night. The team also surprisingly holds their opponents to the second-lowest points in the paint per game and scores the 2nd-most points off turnovers. Meanwhile, the Bulls rely heavily on their ability to score in the paint (7th-most per game) and still average the most turnovers per game (though, they’ve been better). So, if there is any game to limit their mistakes and run an extra efficient offense this week, this would be the one.

Hawks: Atlanta has won three straight and currently sits 4th in the Eastern Conference. The Bulls have only played them once this season, and that game was a 20-point loss on opening night. Fortunately, Chicago is much improved since then, but it is still going to take a strong defensive showing to walk away with a victory. A lengthy big man like Clint Capela could also help limit Vucevic’s impact, so I would look for this to be a fiery game for Zach LaVine.

Timberwolves: The T-Wolves have gotten D’Angelo Russell back into the mix, but that still doesn’t mean a loss would be acceptable. They are the worst team in the league for a reason, and the Bulls will simply need to take care of business if they want to be taken seriously down the stretch.

Author: Elias Schuster

Elias Schuster is the Lead Bulls Writer at Bleacher Nation. You can follow him on Twitter @Schuster_Elias.