Raptors-Bulls Preview

Toronto Raptors Status Check:
Record: 29-48
Division: 3-11
Conference: 17-30
Road Record: 11-28
Last 10 Games: 3-7
Streak: Lost 1
Last game: 100-83 loss to Milwaukee
PPG: 96.8 (16th)
Opponents PPG: 99.1 (18th)
Offensive Rating: 105.4 (16th)
Defensive Rating: 107.9 (22nd)
Pace: 90.4 (24th)
Effective Field Goal Percentage: .485 (18th)
Turnover Percentage: .131 (6th)
Defensive Rebound Percentage: .733 (17th)
Offensive Rebound Percentage: .256 (21st)
Free Throws Per Field Goal Attempt: .212 (11th)
Opp. eFG%: .501 (17th)
Opp. TO%: .137 (14th)
Opp. FT/FGA: .254 (30th)
Leading scorer: Rudy Gay (19.1)

Stats from Basketball-Reference

Raptors Injury Report:
Andrea Bargnani: out (sprained elbow)
Linas Kleiza: out (sore knee)

With injuries piling up, and Chicago’s loss to Detroit, fourth place in the Eastern Conference seems out of reach. There are just six games left for Chicago in the season and the Bulls are two behind Brooklyn in the loss column.

Chicago is also two losses ahead of Atlanta in the fight for the fifth spot. That means unless one of these teams falls apart, it’s shaping up like a Bulls-Nets matchup in the four-five game, with the winner advancing to face Miami (likely). Playing on the road in round one, and then playing Miami if they advance isn’t exactly what the Bulls expected entering this year, but the fifth seed, with all they’ve been through, is impressive even in a bad Eastern Conference.

They aren’t out of the woods yet on these injuries either, and honestly Chicago won’t be completely healthy for the rest of this season.

Joakim Noah returned against the Pistons and in his 21 minutes of action, he was the best player on the court for Chicago. Only three players recorded positive plus/minus numbers, led by Jo (+7). The other two, who recorded a plus-one, were Malcolm Thomas and Marquis Teague, and they played just one minute.

But in those 21 minutes of him leading the Bulls, he re-aggravated his plantar fasciitis, and is now planted back on the bench. Noah received a cortisone shot in his right foot and it’s unclear when he will return.

If it was just Noah, the Bulls could pull it off, but the injury list looks more like a starting five at this point in the season. Noah, Derrick Rose, Luol Deng, Taj Gibson and Rip Hamilton are all out. Four of those guys were starters last season, and four of them are in Tom Thibodeau’s favorite fourth quarter lineup.

This season, Deng is their leading scorer; Noah is the team leader in rebounds, blocks and steals, with Taj second in blocks. Rose was the leading scorer last season and Rip was supposed to be the starting shooting guard. It’s not even an uphill battle anymore. It’s like trying to climb a waterfall.

Marco Belinelli is expected to play, which I guess is a small bright side.

It is nice that the Bulls are getting rest before the playoffs, perhaps teaching Tom Thibodeau that every game isn’t a must win. It’s a marathon not a sprint, and you can’t finish the race if your legs fall off. Or if Joakim Noah has plantar fasciitis in his right foot.

Thibs is expected to use his 14th different starting line-up against the Raptors, a team that the Bulls needed overtime to beat in the only previous game between the two this season.

Carlos Boozer tallied 36 points, which remains a season high, and 12 boards to lead the Bulls. Noah added 16 and 14, as Chicago outscored Toronto 54-36 in the paint.

The Bulls will have just two of the same starters this time around, with Boozer and Kirk Hinrich being the only healthy bodies compared to the January showdown.

Chicago always goes all out, even when they are depleted with injury and guys like Daequan Cook and Vladimir Radmanovic are getting heavy minutes. The question will be how much fight Toronto will have, considering they are knocked out of the playoffs already.

The Bulls and Raptors meet again Friday night in Toronto.

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