It's Play-In Time ... and Other Bulls Bullets

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It’s Play-In Time … and Other Bulls Bullets

Chicago Bulls

I don’t want to be excited considering this is a battle between a 9 and 10 seed … BUT GOSH DARN IT I’M READY FOR SOME POSTSEASON HOOPS!

  • While this is likely fueled by bias rather than logic, I’ve leaned more toward the Bulls winning this game over the last 24 hours. Of course, I have some pretty major concerns about the Raptors’ offensive rebounding ability and defensive length. But we also shouldn’t ignore how well the Bulls have played since the All-Star break! They have been a pretty stellar defensive team themselves, and I do expect them to make a rather limited Raptors offense work for every shot. If they’re able to control the basketball and not allow Toronto to get into a rhythm by scoring points off turnovers, I like the Bulls’ chances to hit one or two more big buckets down the stretch.
  • Toronto has averaged the seventh-worst field goal percentage in the NBA since the All-Star break and the third-worst 3-point percentage. They’ve especially struggled to hit shots down the stretch, finishing with the third-worst offensive rating in clutch situations. They’ve gone just 4-6 in clutch games since mid-February, while the Bulls have gone a much-improved 5-3.
  • Unlike in the earlier portion of this season, I actually like Chicago’s chances if it comes down to the wire. Whether it be Coby White’s recent shotmaking off the bench, Zach LaVine’s willingness to attack the rim, or DeMar DeRozan’s knack for hitting the big shot, I trust the Bulls’ offensive weapons a little more than what the Raptors have to offer. Cleaning the Glass has the Raptors’ halfcourt offense averaging the 6th-fewest points per 100 possessions. Meanwhile, the Bulls rank 9th in that department. Don’t get me wrong, Chicago is still far better when they’re getting out in transition, but they could have the edge if they can turn this game into an ugly halfcourt battle.
  • Having said that, I am pretty terrified of Pascal Siakam. Missing two of the three meetings this year, the Bulls didn’t get a full taste of what the versatile forward is capable of this season. He is averaging 24.2 points and 5.8 assists per game (both career highs). While his 3-point stroke has dipped, he is shooting a career-high 72 percent at the rim, per Cleaning the Glass. The Bulls are most likely going to start this game undersized with Caruso and Beverley, so how they plan to approach the Siakam matchup will be key. FWIW: I would expect that we still see a few more Patrick Williams minutes than expected in hopes that he can help manage Siakam.
  • I wrote a pretty hefty preview of this game that you can read here. There is undoubtedly a recipe for the Bulls to win, but it’s going to start with limiting turnovers and offensive rebounds.

  • If the Bulls are able to outlast the Raptors, they will meet the Heat for a chance to clinch a first-round series. I watched the bulk of last night’s Heat-Hawks game and was pretty darn shocked by how flat Miami looked from the start. Rarely do you see a team bully Jimmy Butler’s squad, but that’s exactly what the Hawks were able to do on the glass and in the paint. While I’d be a little bit worried about an angry Miami team coming on the court Friday night, there is no question they looked very beatable last night.

  • Talk your talk, Dejounte.

  • The Athletic’s Darnell Mayberry and Eric Koreen teamed up for a preview of tonight’s game. The two ended up not siding with the teams they cover. Nothing says you’re a beat reporter for a painfully average organization quite like that! Make sure to give it a read here.
  • Good News: The Bulls have a completely clean injury report (besides the obvious Lonzo Ball injury)! I’ll still have a close eye on how Alex Caruso looks as he continues to play through his foot issue, but I’m assuming a little less playing time over the past couple of games of the regular season helped him out. DeRozan will also require a little extra attention. He isn’t known to be dealing with anything right now, but we have seen his quad act up at times this season. I worry slightly about that in a game that is expected to be pretty darn physical.
  • By the way, if you want an extended preview of tonight’s game, feel free to give my podcast with Ro Schaefer of The Athletic and NBA dot com a listen. The show was supposed to be about all the Play-In games, but (shocker) the two Bulls guys ended up talking about that matchup for about 30 minutes. Listen on Spotify here and Apple here.
  • I’ll gladly take some protection for Justin Fields.

  • Can the Cubs make up for Swanson’s bat being out of the lineup?

Author: Elias Schuster

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