Bulls Weekly Preview: Raptors, Pistons, Suns, Pacers – February 27-March 5, 2023
I know it was a small sample size, but was last week the most fun week of Bulls basketball this season? It’s a little sad that a 2-0 week might have been the best so far, but the Patrick Beverley era is off to an awesome start. We’ll learn much more about the Bulls this week, though.
After back-to-back blowout wins holding opponents to under 90 points, the Bulls move into an important 4-game week. The Raptors matchup on Tuesday might be the most important. The Bulls sit 1.5 games behind Toronto for 9th in the East and 0.5 games behind Washington for 10th.
After Toronto, the Bulls have matchups with the Pistons, Suns, and Pacers. If they can pull off a tough win in Toronto, a 3-1 or 4-0 week becomes a real possibility.
I’m getting over-excited for such a small sample size, I know. But the Bulls have shown some real signs of turning things around, and the new-look starting lineup has helped as well. Let’s preview the week, shall we?
Meet the Opponents:
- 2/28 vs Raptors: Second straight game with big-time Play-In Tournament implications
- 3/1 vs Pistons: Must-win for the Bulls, no doubt about it
- 3/3 vs Suns: Looks like KD will finally be in the Suns’ lineup for this one
- 3/5 vs Pacers: Build a big lead and KEEP IT THIS TIME PLEASE
Bulls Projected Lineup
- Patrick Beverley
- Alex Caruso
- Zach LaVine
- DeMar DeRozan
- Nikola Vučević
Opponent Projected Lineup
- Fred VanVleet
- Gary Trent Jr.
- O.G. Anunoby
- Scottie Barnes
- Pascal Siakam
- Killian Hayes
- Jaden Ivey
- Bogdan Bogdanovich
- Isaiah Stewart
- James Wiseman
- Chris Paul
- Devin Booker
- Josh Okogie
- Kevin Durant
- Deandre Ayton
- Andrew Nembhard
- Tyrese Haliburton
- Buddy Hield
- Aaron Nesmith
- Myles Turner
Unavailable/Injured (at the start of the week)
- Raptors: Fred VanVleet QUESTIONABLE (personal), Otto Porter Jr. OUT (foot)
- Pistons: Jaden Ivey QUESTIONABLE (personal), Bogdan Bogdanovich QUESTIONABLE (Achilles)
- Suns: Kevin Durant QUESTIONABLE (knee), Landry Shamet QUESTIONABLE (foot)
- Pacers: Kendall Brown QUESTIONABLE (leg)
- Bulls: 54.7 EFG% (13th), 13.6 TOV% (9th), 23.7 OREB% (28th), 22.3 FTA/GM (24th)
- Raptors: 51.3 EFG% (29th), 12.0 TOV% (1st), 31.4 OREB% (4th), 24.9 FTA/GM (12th)
- Pistons: 52.1 EFG% (26th), 14.9 TOV% (23rd) 28.9 OREB% (10th), 26.8 FTA/GM (1st)
- Suns: 53.2 EFG% (21st), 14.2 TOV% (15th), 31.2 OREB% (6th), 21.7 FTA/GM (27th)
- Pacers: 53.8 EFG% (18th), 14.8 TOV% (22nd), 28.6 OREB% (12th), 23.2 FTA/GM (17th)
What to Watch For:
Bulls: This is probably the most excited I’ve been for a week of Bulls basketball this season. Defensively, the Bulls have been playing pretty well since the calendar turned to 2023, but the arrival of Patrick Beverley and shuffling of the starting lineup has seen them get even better. Having Alex Caruso and Beverley on the floor at the same time makes the Bulls defense so much more dynamic. You have two of the top defensive guards in the game which means to can trust them to make the right rotations, get over on screens, and set the tone. And honestly, Patrick Williams and Ayo Dosunmu being in the second unit just makes more sense. Williams has been a better player away from LaVine and DeMar. He’s a little more aggressive offensively and doesn’t feel like he has to defer as much. And as much as I love Ayo, his future in the league is as a second-unit PG. This puts him in the right spot, and he’s not overmatched. Rebounding will be big for the Bulls this week. 3 of the 4 opponents are in the Top 10 in offensive rebound percentage, and all 4 are in the Top 12.
Raptors: While rumors swirled that the Raptors might sell some parts at the trade deadline, they mostly stood pat. And since that decision, they’re been playing some pretty good basketball. Toronto is 4-2 since the trade deadline including a win over the Pelicans, though mostly they’ve beaten opponents they should beat. That said, they’re in the Play-In Tournament as of now and the Bulls need this win to gain some ground. Toronto is a good defensive team, they 8th in Opponent PPG at 112.2. But Opponent Shooting Percentage is ranked 27th in the NBA at 48.9%. They’ll make the Bulls work for their points.
Pistons: We’ve talked about it more than we need to, but the Bulls have had their struggles against bad teams this season. This one is just about a must-win with time running out in the season. Detroit won just two games in all of February. They do have some young talent the Bulls need to be careful of, and they’re capable of getting the Bulls. That said, this is the one “bad team” the Bulls have been able to handle for the most part this season. Don’t try and sleepwalk through this one, it will be the second end of a back-to-back. Take care of business.
Suns: Will we finally see Kevin Durant in a Suns uniform? And after what Charles Barkley said about him on Monday, he might be extra motivated. He’s scheduled to make his debut the game before on March 1st. Here’s to hoping that due to load management, he decides to take Friday night off. With or without KD though, the Suns are a really dangerous team obviously. They just went toe-to-toe and lost a tough one in Milwaukee 104-101 on Sunday. As talented as they are with KD, the depth definitely took a hit at the deadline. That’s an area the Bulls will have to try and exploit by making that Suns first unit work and trying to force them into foul trouble.
Pacers: Just beat them. Get out to a big lead, start the second half strong, and leave no doubt. After yet another comeback win from more than 20 points down, the Pacers split their next two games but the loss was a tightly contested matchup with the Celtics. They’re healthy now, and they can shoot the lights out with Hield and Haliburton on a given night, but the Bulls are a better team. If we get the defensive intensity and improved three-point shooting we saw last week it will be fine. But this one feels like a mental hurdle the Bulls will need to clear.