An Edge on Offense, Needing the Bulls' Bench, Odds to Advance, and Other Bulls Bullets

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An Edge on Offense, Needing the Bulls’ Bench, Odds to Advance, and Other Bulls Bullets

Chicago Bulls

Most talk surrounding tomorrow’s Play-In Tournament matchup between the Chicago Bulls and Toronto Raptors has been pretty doom and gloom. But, hey, it’s not like they’re playing the Bucks!

  • As much as I don’t like this matchup for the Bulls, I do want to take a second to remind everyone that the Toronto Raptors are 41-41. In other words, they are only one game better than Chicago this season. Sure, while it’s hard for me not to give them the edge in this upcoming game due to experience, size, and physicality, I do expect this to be a pretty close battle. And I also wouldn’t at all be shocked if the Bulls walked away with a win.
  • The Raptors were the NBA’s second-favorite blow-it-up team this season. Many thought both Masai Ujiri and Arturas Karnisovas would press the reset button at the deadline. Instead, they each decided to double down on their respective rosters and attempt to make a second-half run. The Bulls did that to the tune of a 14-9 record after the All-Star break. Toronto held a 13-10 record. In fact, the Bulls have actually held the 3rd-best net rating in the NBA since the break, while the Raptors have sat 12th.
  • Where the Bulls can give the Raptors trouble is with their efficient shotmaking. Over the last 23 games, Chicago has held the 10th-best effective field goal percentage in the NBA. Where has Toronto ranked? Just 28th. Again, replicating this against the Raptors’ defense isn’t going to be easy, but we all know the Bulls have the offensive talent to do it. Whether it be LaVine, DeRozan, Vucevic, or even Coby White off the bench, the Bulls undoubtedly have the upper hand when it comes to shotmakers.
  • Indeed, if the Bulls can keep the points off TOV battle and rebounding battle relatively level, I can certainly see a world where they’re able to make a couple more big shots than the Raptors down the stretch. Accomplishing those first two things is going to be pretty darn tough, though.
  • I’ve already mentioned this, but the bench could prove to be the difference between winning and losing this game. Toronto’s bench averages the second-fewest points per game in the NBA. More specifically, NBA Stats hands their second unit the worst offensive rating in the NBA. As long as the Bulls can keep Gary Trent Jr. from getting hot behind the arc, their reserves should have a relatively big advantage. Coby White and Andre Drummond should be the two primary names to keep an eye on. If White can continue to hit his open looks and Drummond can snag a few offensive rebounds, the Bulls could be cooking with gas.
  • We all know DeMar DeRozan loves Toronto, but I have to imagine he’s still ready to kick their teeth in. This is the same organization that shockingly dumped him back in 2018. Now, he has an opportunity to show up looking hotter than ever before.

  • Having said that, a big night for DeRozan will not be as easy to come by as normal. The Raptors have had his number all season long, and I wrote a little bit more about how the Bulls can deal with that in a post you can read here.
  • I’d have to agree with K.C. on this one. While I can see why Patrick Williams’ size would be preferred against Siakam in the starting lineup, Caruso’s perimeter defense and IQ are invaluable. Perhaps I’d feel differently if Williams has proven to be an improved rebounder this season, but he’s really struggled to make an impact on the glass at times.

  • Also, it’s not like Donovan can’t still turn to him when needed. I can easily see a world where he opts to close with Williams over someone like Beverley depending on how the game goes. But, as far as starting this one out, I like the idea of keeping maximum flexibility with Williams’ minutes and trusting your vets. If anything, start him over Beverley and not Caruso.
  • Basketball Reference gives the Bulls the second-lowest odds to make the playoffs. Considering they’re a 10th seed, that obviously makes plenty of sense. I got to say, though, I really do like their chances if they can make it past Toronto. Both the Hawks and Heat have struggled against Chicago this season.

  • The guys sound motivated, I’ll give them that.

  • By the way, for your ears, I recorded a podcast with Rob Schaefer of NBA dot com and The Athletic. We did a long breakdown of the Bulls’ upcoming matchup with the Raptors, as well as discussed each of the other Play-In Tournament games around the NBA. If that’s of interest to you, feel free to listen and subscribe on Spotify or Apple.
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Author: Elias Schuster

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