Chicago Bulls (3-3) vs. Toronto Raptors (4-5) Preview


Nov 2, 2013; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Chicago Bulls forward Carlos Boozer (5) celebrates making a basket and drawing the foul during the third quarter against the Philadelphia 76ers at Wells Fargo Center. The Sixers defeated the Bulls 107-104. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

The Bulls have struggled to reintegrate Derrick Rose into the team’s offensive schemes so far this season and the team was dealt another minor setback on Tuesday against the Cavaliers, when the point guard strained his right hamstring. The injury has left him questionable for Friday night’s game in Toronto against the Raptors.

While Rose has sounded optimistic that he’ll play during his daily interviews this week, he was held out of practice again today and coach Tom Thibodeau has stressed that the Bulls will be careful with their perennial all-star. Thibodeau made the following statement to reporters after the practice today:

"You just want to make sure that he’s completely healthy. He’s been off for 18 months. It’s a long time to be off. There’s going to be some bumps and bruises along the way, but just put everything you have into each and every day and just go from there.”"

Even if Rose’s hamstring has loosened up enough for him to play by gametime, the Bulls are facing a much improved Raptors team that has instilled Rudy Gay as the first true face of the franchise since Vince Carter left in 2004. The uber-talented Gay leads a Toronto team that has been surprisingly competitive this year, mainly because of a stingy defense that has held opponents to under 95 points a game (good for fifth in the Association).

While Gay certainly is an exciting player to watch and can occasionally take over games, his move from Memphis to Toronto unfortunately has not helped his notoriously bad shot selection. Gay and DeMar DeRozan, the Raptor’s second leading scorer, have combined to shoot just 36% thus far from the field this year. The starting wings have begun to draw the ire of Toronto fans, as their high shot volumes have the potential to hinder the growth of the team’s promising young bigs Amir Johnson and Jonas Valanciunas (Gay had a horrific night against Houston Monday, going for 11-37). Valanciunas is a particularly interesting player who has shown fantastic explosiveness, and is a potential building block for Toronto.

The Bulls will arrive in  Toronto riding a mini two game winning streak, and are coming off  a solid win over Cleveland. While the Bulls offensive inadequacies this season have been well documented, Tom Thibodeau’s superb defense has resurfaced over the past few games. Luol Deng and Jimmy Butler will present a great challenge to Gay and DeRozan on Friday, as their superb length and height will make open looks hard to come by for the Raptor’s shot happy duo. Look for the Bulls to pound the rock inside to Carlos Boozer early, especially if Rose is unable to go. Boozer was superb against Toronto last year, averaging 24.7 points with almost 12 boards. Those numbers included Boozer’s monstrous 36 point effort in an overtime win on January 16th.

Some interesting tidbits for Friday’s game:

  • Chicago dropped a season series versus the Raptors (1-2) for the first time since  2009-10
  • In their three victories this season, Tom Thibodeau’s defense has held their opponents to 81 points or less each game. According to the Bulls Media Relations staff, Chicago is 64-9 (.877) when it keeps its opponent under 90 points since 2010.
  • Nazr Mohammed had his best game in a Chicago uniform the last time these two teams clashed, as he grabbed 13 boards in 43 minutes.