Game Preview: Raptors at Bulls

Holly MacKenzie - Raptors.com

The Toronto Raptors are in Chicago to take on the Bulls as they look to rebound from a disappointing home loss against the Detroit Pistons on Sunday evening. Chicago is hoping to snap a two-game losing streak. The Bulls have lost four of their previous six games, the last three all blowout losses.

Tip-off: 8 P.M. ET

Broadcast info: TSN2/ TSN1050

TALKING POINTS

Roll call

After a fourth quarter collapse on Sunday against the Detroit Pistons, the Raptors are hoping to leave an ugly home loss in the rearview. Leading for much of the game and heading into the fourth quarter ahead by 16, Toronto fell apart on both ends of the floor in the final frame. The Pistons outscored the Raptors 36-19 in the quarter to steal a 102-101 road victory thanks to a corner three-pointer from Kentavious Caldwell-Pope who was 1-for-11 from deep before the go-ahead three. It has been that kind of month for Toronto who land in Chicago with a 32-23 record, having lost 10 of its previous 14 games.

Things haven't been any easier for the Bulls, who have dropped their previous two games and fallen to 26-29 on the season. The Raptors have been without Patrick Patterson for the team's previous four games and his status for Tuesday's game is unknown. Chicago playlist last game, a 117-89 loss against the Minnesota Timberwolves, without Jimmy Butler, Dwyane Wade, Nikola Mirotic and Paul Zipser. Wade and Zipser are listed as doubtful against the Raptors, while All-Star Butler will be evaluated after the team's Tuesday morning shootaround. Mirotic did not participate in Monday's practice.

Looking forward

It has been a difficult month for the Raptors. Sunday's one-point loss to the Detroit Pistons — after leading by 16 to start the fourth quarter — stung everyone in the locker room. After weeks of talking about needing to improve the defence and clean up the repeated mistakes that occur late in the fourth quarter, guys were frustrated with letting another win slip away. With another game on deck for Tuesday, that frustration has shifted to focus.

"There's a plethora of things that can be changed to help our team but right now everything is magnified to the 20th degree because of how we're playing," Kyle Lowry said. "Things are not going well right now and it kind of sucks.

"We're not responding to adversity well at all [right now]. We've just got figure it out. every single thing we do is tough right now on us. Shots are tough, defensively guys are making shots on us. We've got to find ways to dictate the game a lot better."

While the Raptors have been getting better defensively for stretches of the game, those stretches need to get longer. Playing with the lead is also an area where the team needs to improve.

"Moving the basketball, making sure we get screens, proper spacing, all those things [are important]," Dwane Casey said. "This shot may be a good shot when you're trying to create a lead, but it may not be a good one when you're up six or nine with five minutes to go."

Continuing to work

Despite a frustrating loss on Sunday, the Raptors showed up for practice on Monday ready to work. In addition to preparing for the Bulls, the team also got in a spirited scrimmage in the practice session. It was a sight head coach Dwane Casey was pleased to see.

"I love it," Casey said. "I love seeing guys going at each other in those scrimmages. We had a game-like scrimmage where we had out-of-bounds play, side-out-of-bounds play execution which is part of the fourth quarter [struggles the team has been having lately]. Whether you're old or young, those are things we've got to get better at and it was good to see the spirited completion, this is what it's about competition against the other team and us coming out and being focused for those 48 minutes."

After the team's loss to Detroit, Casey stressed the togetherness of the team despite recent struggles.

"It's not one player, it's all of us," Casey said. "It's coaching staff, it's all of us, we're in this together. Some of our bench guys are now starting, our second group is in the first group so the chemistry is off a little bit. There is no excuse. We've got to dig ourselves out. We put ourselves in this situation, we've got to dig ourselves out of this situation. We're not going to point fingers, it's not one person's fault, second unit, first unit, it's all of us."

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