Hey Bulls, You Should Do These Things if You Want to Beat the Raptors
Out of all the Play-In Tournament teams in the Eastern Conference, the Toronto Raptors present the Chicago Bulls with arguably the toughest challenge. Because of course.
With that in mind, I jotted down some things they pretty much have to do to leave Canada with a victory. Let’s hope they listen!
Hit Open Shots
I know this makes me sound like a bit of an a-hole because … well … duh! But hitting shots is a lot easier said than done, especially for the Chicago Bulls.
The fact of the matter is Chicago’s offense has ranked just 24th in the NBA this season. To no surprise, they have also averaged the fewest 3-point attempts per game for the second-straight regular season. Now, to their credit, they have held a league-average offense since the All-Star break. Arguably the primary reason for that has been the surge of Zach LaVine. The Bulls’ two-time All-Star has returned to his prime scoring self, averaging 27.0 points on 53.2 percent shooting over his final 22 games of the regular season. His driving to the rim, in particular, has been absurdly efficient.
Still, we all know Chicago’s offense can turn cold in an instant. And this feels all the more true against a Raptors defense that allows opponents to score the 11th-fewest points in the paint and shoot the fewest mid-range shot attempts per game.
Overall, the Raptors’ long and physical defense is going to make the Bulls work for practically every shot. This means it’s absolutely key that the Bulls take advantage of the few opportunities they get to chuck up open 3s and get ahead of Toronto’s defense.
Rebound Like Your Life Depends On It
Aside from the Raptors’ numerous wing defenders to throw at the Bulls’ top scorers, I’m easily the most worried about the rebounding battle.
Both Nikola Vucevic and Andre Drummond have helped the Bulls achieve a top-3 DREB% in the NBA. Having said that, I wouldn’t declare this group a particularly strong rebounding team. Outside of those two big men, the Bulls get very little help on the glass. In fact, since the All-Star break, the six-foot-two Patrick Beverley has proven to be the team’s third-best rebounder.
With so few options attacking the glass, the Bulls have struggled mightily to grab offensive rebounds and create second-chance opportunities. They have lost the offensive rebounding battle 42-21 in their two losses to the Raptors this season. This resulted in them allowing a combined 42 second-chance points to their 17. Predictably, in their one victory over Toronto, Chicago came out on top with a 9-5 advantage in offensive rebounds and an 11-4 advantage in second-chance points.
The 23 offensive rebounds the Raptors grabbed in November and the 19 they grabbed in late February make up two of the top 3 highest totals by a Bulls opponent this season. In both of those games, the Bulls ended up having a more efficient scoring night from the field. But that isn’t going to matter when you’re giving your opponent that many extra possessions.
Overall, Toronto finished with the third-highest OREB% in the NBA this season. The Bulls finished with the third-worst. If there is anything that can cost Chicago this game, it’s that fact.
Protect the Ball Like Your Mom’s Life Depends On It
Few teams have proven to be as good as the Chicago Bulls at forcing turnovers. The Toronto Raptors are one of those teams.
The Raptors force opponents into 16.7 turnovers per game, which ranks second in the league behind only the Oklahoma City Thunder. Where Toronto does rank first is in points scored off those turnovers. They averaged 21.0 points off TOVs during the regular season, which sits three spots above the Bulls, who scored 18.2 points off TOVs per game.
The Bulls turned the ball over at least 17 times in each of their three matchups versus the Raptors. Even in their one victory over Toronto this season, they turned the ball over 21 times, which turned out to be their second-most of the year. Meanwhile, the Raptors have averaged roughly six fewer TOVs in their matchups against the Bulls this season. They hold the league’s lowest TOV%.
In other words, as good as the Bulls also tend to be at scoring points off TOVs, they’re likely not going to have this be a difference-making category against the Raptors. They’re instead going to have prioritized their own ability to take care of the basketball and minimize those transition opportunities.
Toronto has averaged the 5th-fewest points per 100 possession in the halfcourt this season, per Cleaning the Glass, but happened to average the 2nd-most points per 100 possessions in transition. Taking care of the basketball is one of the best ways to ensure the Raptors’ offense doesn’t get into a rhythm.
Take Advantage of the Bench
I’ve already mentioned this a few times in our morning bullets posts, but the Bulls’ bench has a prime opportunity in front of them. Toronto’s second unit averages the second-fewest points per game in the league, per NBA Stats. They also happen to hold the NBA’s worst bench offensive rating.
This leaves the door wide open for Coby White to make a significant impact. Averaging 14.2 points per game on 41.8 percent shooting from downtown over his final 13 games of the regular season, White could be pivotal in ensuring the Bulls win the minutes when the Raptors’ starters are off the floor.
We can say the same thing about Patrick Williams. While he hasn’t been as consistent as White over these final few weeks, he has become far more aggressive on the offensive end this season. Bringing that very mindset against the Raptors’ bench could truly be the difference between winning and losing.
I’d also keep an eye on what the Bulls can get out of Andre Drummond. In a game that is expected to see a tough battle on the boards, Drummond will bring an important size advantage when Jakob Poeltl is catching his breath. This could be an opportunity for the Bulls to even the playing field on the offensive glass.
Don’t Get Trapped
The Toronto Raptors are going to do everything in their power to make sure DeMar DeRozan doesn’t beat them. We’ve already seen them try to trap the All-Star scorer over and over again this year, and it’s been part of the reason why the Bulls came out on the wrong end of the season series.
The easiest way for the Bulls to beat this trap is to be quick and decisive with their offense. Whether it be finding Vucevic in the middle of the floor to facilitate or swiftly passing it to LaVine who is cutting hard to the rim, the Bulls need to be alert and assertive with their movements.
Anyway, I already dedicated an entire post to this conversation. You can read that here:
Whether it be following a chance to get back to .500 with a six-game losing streak or getting blown out by the Hawks with the 8 seed on the line … the Bulls tend to suck when a big-time opportunity presents itself.
Let’s not do that this time, ok? Cool.