Raptors vs. Bulls Preview: Target Surging Toronto as a Road Underdog

Austin Wang breaks down Monday's NBA matchup between the Toronto Raptors and the Chicago Bulls and shares his best bet.

Raptors vs. Bulls Odds

Raptors Odds +4.5
Bulls Odds -4.5
Over/Under 225.5
Time 8 p.m. ET
TV NBA League Pass
Odds via FanDuel. Get up-to-the-minute NBA odds here.

The Toronto Raptors are full of confidence as they head down to the Windy City to take on the Chicago Bulls on Monday evening. They have won six of their previous seven games, including Sunday night’s slugfest win over the Philadelphia 76ers at the Wells Fargo Center in Philly. In addition, they got that impressive win without their star guard, Fred VanVleet.

On the other hand, the slumping Bulls continue their recent skid. They have lost three straight games and dropped eight of their previous 10 games. The good news is they are getting Patrick Williams back for Monday’s game, and Alex Caruso has recently returned to the lineup.

The Raptors are currently the seventh seed and are 1.5 games behind the fifth seed Bulls. A win here could get them one step closer to avoiding the Play-In Tournament. Can the Raptors pull off another win on the road? Let’s break down this exciting Eastern Conference matchup.

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VanVleet and the Versatile Raptors on a Back-to-Back

The Raptors are not in an ideal scheduling spot on the second night of a back-to-back and had to travel from Philadelphia to Chicago overnight.

VanVleet got the night off, but the Raptors still responded with a gutsy win against the 76ers on the road. He will be back in the lineup for the game against the Bulls, so that helps with some of the anticipated fatigue.

OG Anunoby and Malachi Flynn still remain out, but other players have stepped up in the rotation. Big men Precious Achiuwa and Chris Boucher have been giving them solid minutes and production off the bench. Both of them are really versatile and can help with guarding Nikola Vucevic.

The most impressive development this season is breakout rookie Scottie Barnes. The do-it-all rookie continues to get better and better. He has an improved shot, he is an excellent defender, and he can handle the ball and run the offense.

This season, they are 31-13 (70.5%) against the spread against teams with an Offensive Efficiency above the season average, per the Sports Data Query Language at Gimme The Dog. This is active against the Bulls and speaks a lot to the Raptors’ defense, as they really excel against the better offensive teams in the league. They have multiple players who can defend multiple positions, giving them incredible versatility.

Healthier Bulls Looking for Momentum

The bad news is the Bulls have been struggling lately at one of the most crucial parts of the season. Even further, the Bulls have a really tough schedule to close out the season with the Bucks (twice), Heat and Celtics left on the docket.

The good news is their injury report is growing shorter by the day. The Bulls will get their talented sophomore and ferocious defender Patrick Williams back into the lineup against Toronto. However, don’t expect too much out of him as he will be coming off the bench with a minutes restriction. Caruso has been back in the lineup for four games now, and that has given the Bulls a much-needed boost off the bench.

Lonzo Ball now remains the biggest name on that injury report. It has now been seven weeks since his knee surgery, and there was originally projected to be a timetable of 6-8 weeks. Recent reports state that he is still not ready for full speed and contact, so it sounds like he will still need some time.

The Bulls rank ninth in Offensive Rating (112.7) but 21st in Defensive Rating (112.1), per NBA Advanced Stats. Even worse, they ranked 29th in Offensive Rating in their previous five games. They have been a below-average team recently, and I think they could struggle against a Raptors team that is hitting its stride.

Zach LaVine is not 100% – he went 1-for-7 in the loss against the Suns last game and hasn’t looked like his normal self. DeMar DeRozan’s shooting has continued to cool off. He is now shooting 41.1% in his previous 10 games, a far cry from his season average of 50.3%.

Raptors-Bulls Pick

Even though the Raptors are in a tough scheduling spot, I must take the points with this scrappy Raptors team against a struggling Bulls squad. With VanVleet being held out of Sunday night’s win against Philadelphia, I think his return will mitigate some of the fatigue that the Raptors as a team may have.

The Raptors are very close to catching up to the Bulls in standings, and I expect another strong effort out of Toronto. I would gladly take the current line of +4.5, and would play it down to +3.

Pick: Raptors +4.5 | play down to +3