Game Preview: Raptors @ Bulls

Holly MacKenzie - Raptors.com

After one game at the Air Canada Centre, the Raptors are on the road again, this time in Chicago to take on the Bulls. Chicago is coming off a 106-94 victory against the Cavaliers in Cleveland on Wednesday night.

Tip-off: 8:00 P.M. ET

Broadcast Info: TSN / TSN1050

TALKING POINTS

Figuring out a better start

While defence has dominated much of the conversation for Dwane Casey’s Raptors this season, getting off to better starts has become an issue of late. After a six-game road trip where the Raptors often found themselves digging out of a hole to get back into the game, Casey wants his team to be better from the jump.

“We’ve got to get the start,” Casey said. “Whether it’s who we start, [if that] contributes to that, I don't know what it is, but we’ve got to find a better way of coming out of the gates and then extending that amount of time of intensity and focus.”

In Thursday’s comeback victory against the Utah Jazz, the Raptors switched up their starting five, replacing rookie Pascal Siakam with Lucas Nogueira. Casey called the situation “fluid” as the team continues to search for the right combination to get off to the desired start.

Lowry dominating late

When the Raptors have found themselves in need of a fourth quarter takeover, Kyle Lowry has been the go-to guy this season. More often than not, he’s been able to come through for his team, too. In the previous two weeks, Lowry has had a 19-point fourth quarter, a 20-point fourth quarter and a 16-point fourth quarter, each offensive explosion coming in games where the Raptors desperately needed it.

Lowry brushes off questions about his late-game scoring bursts, saying it’s about the team and what is needed from him, but his ability to come through in the clutch is what makes him such an important of what the Raptors do each night.

”I think that’s his mentality,” Casey said. “That’s who he is. He’s one of those guys who is a street fighter. He’s not happy unless he’s unhappy. That’s one of those things, that’s who he is, that’s what makes him who he is. When the game is on the line he’s going to will his way to get the ball, get to the basket, make a shot and that’s what has helped us win a lot of games this year.”

The point guard confirmed his coach’s assessment.

“For me it’s just fun,” Lowry said. “When it comes to winning time, it’s all about winning. That’s all I care about. I hate losing more than I like winning. That’s really how I feel about anything. I think just winning games, it makes the next day a lot better if you win games. I like having good days all the time.”

Prepared for a battle against the Bulls

The Raptors have lost to the Bulls in the previous nine meetings between the two teams. With Chicago looking much different than a season ago — adding Dwyane Wade to the mix, having Derrick Rose go to New York, for starters — Casey doesn’t want his team paying too much attention to previous results.

“I don't get caught up in streaks, whatever the streak is, I'm worried about the moment,” Casey said. “That’s the only thing you can control. That play, that next game. I don't get caught up in streaks. I hope our players don't. We’ve got to go in with a single minded approach as far as meeting their physicality for 48 minutes.”

Lowry pointed to Chicago’s 18-18 record and said it doesn’t reflect how good of a team the Bulls are and can be. After their previous win against the Cavaliers in Cleveland his words are surely ones the rest of his teammates have heard in preparation for Saturday’s game.

“They’re good,” Lowry said. “They play hard. Their record doesn’t show what they’re capable of [doing]. They’ve got D-Wade, they’ve got Jimmy Butler, those two right there are All-Stars, those guys can win games alone. [Rajon] Rondo’s not playing right now, but when he’s playing he plays well and Michael Carter-Williams, he’s playing unbelievable. He’s playing like a 6-foot-6 point guard. He’s really finding himself out there right now.”

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