Bulls vs. Raptors provides potential Play-In Tournament preview tonight

DeMar DeRozan, Fred VanVleet, Chicago Bulls (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
DeMar DeRozan, Fred VanVleet, Chicago Bulls (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /

Winners of their last two contests, the Chicago Bulls are on a mission to prove they’re to be taken seriously from here on out. Since adding Patrick Beverley through the buyout market, this team looks completely transformed and now has fans worrying about their chances in the NBA Play-In Tournament instead of their lottery odds. If they really want to prove Bulls basketball is back, however, they must begin by defeating the Toronto Raptors on the road tonight.

Having already split the season series to date, this will be the last time the Bulls and Raptors play each other this year. This is particularly important because whoever wins will possess a tiebreaker over the other in the standings leading up to the postseason. The Raptors have achieved a strong 19-13 record at home this year, while the Bulls have been a terrible 10-20 on the road, so history most certainly isn’t on their side here.

This game is also sure to feature a few compelling matchups, with Zach LaVine and Fred VanVleet capable of pouring it on offensively, Patrick Williams and Scottie Barnes being each team’s forward of the future, and DeMar DeRozan and Pascal Siakam clashing in a true All-Star duel.

Although Toronto may be in a better place now (and with an NBA championship to boot), DeRozan never shies away from the opportunity to remind the Raptors why he’s the best player in their franchise history. DeMar has defeated the Raptors in four of their six meetings with the Bulls, racking up at least 20 points and 5 rebounds in all but one of these games.

Hopefully, DeRozan will be able to repeat history tonight as the Bulls desperately try to dig themselves out of the hole they climbed into before the All-Star Break. This team does look much improved since then, but they’ve yet to prove they can maintain this level of play against an actually talented and healthy team

If the Chicago Bulls can maintain their current level of play, there’s a solid chance they’ll run into the Toronto Raptors in the NBA Play-In Tournament.

Although it isn’t quite as close as the current playoff race in the Western Conference, things are still tight between the East’s fringe playoff teams. Here’s how every team in the 6th through 11th seeded teams stack up right now, as they jostle for a more favorable spot in the postseason.

  • Nets (34-26)
  • Heat (33-29)
  • Hawks (31-30)
  • Raptors (30-32)
  • Wizards (28-32)
  • Bulls (28-33)

These are the teams most likely to feature in this year’s Eastern Conference Play-In Tournament, with the top team in the standings qualifying for the playoffs outright and the bottom-ranked team missing the Play-In and entering the draft lottery. With only 6.5 games separating these teams in the Nets in a state of freefall, it’s still anyone’s game here.

That much is especially true considering the Raptors’ recent success, winning 7 of their last 10 games. Meanwhile, the Hawks and Bulls have made significant changes and look re-energized coming out of the All-Star Break by winning their first two games. If the Nets and Heat continue to struggle, it’s entirely possible that a team like the Bulls can put their rough start behind them and secure a favorable position in the Play-In Tournament.

Whether or not Chicago can actually defeat these other teams to advance to the NBA Playoffs remains to be seen, but we’ll fortunately get our first look at how the Bulls stack up tonight in Toronto.

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