Game Preview: Raptors vs Bulls
Chicago Bulls (10-26) @ Toronto Raptors (26-11)
When: Sunday, December 30th, 6 P.M. ET
Where: Scotiabank Arena
Leading into tonight’s game:
- Injury Report: For the Raptors, Jonas Valanciunas is out with a dislocated left thumb. The status of Kyle Lowry (lower back pain) is to be determined. For the Bulls, Bobby Portis and Denzel Valentine are both out with ankle injuries.
- Third-quarter collapse: The Raptors are back in Toronto following a disappointing 116-87 road loss to the Orlando Magic to close out a three-game road trip. Though the team led 29-25 after the first quarter — and later trailed by nine at the half —, things fell apart in the third where the Magic outscored the Raptors 35-15. Toronto shot just 19 percent in the third quarter, shooting 5-for-26 from the floor as the Magic built a 29-point lead heading into the fourth. This was the largest margin of defeat for the Raptors this season.
- Recent history: This will be the second meeting between the Raptors and Bulls this season, with Toronto earning a 122-83 road win in Chicago on Nov. 17. With Kawhi Leonard resting in the back-to-back, Fred VanVleet led the way, scoring 18 points. Danny Green added 17 (on a perfect 7-for-7 field goals) and Serge Ibaka scored 16 points to go with four blocked shots. While the Raptors were without Leonard, the Bulls were without leading scorer Zach LaVine, who missed the game with an illness. The victory snapped a three-game losing streak for the Raptors.
- Ibaka delivers: On a night where almost the entire team struggled to score, Serge Ibaka was the lone Raptors starter able to find his offence against the Magic. Ibaka scored 17 points on Friday, shooting 8-for-16 from the floor in 32 minutes of action. He added eight rebounds, three assists and four blocked shots. Besides Ibaka, OG Anunoby (2-for-4 field goals) and Chris Boucher (3-for-4 field goals) were the only Raptors players to shoot better than 50 percent from the floor. Ibaka is shooting 54.3 percent this season, his highest percentage since the 2012-13 season when he was in Oklahoma City.
- Injury woes: After being one of the healthiest teams in the league in recent years, the Raptors are currently dealing with a string of injuries that has upended the team’s rotation. In Friday’s loss to the Magic, the Raptors were without Kyle Lowry, Jonas Valanciunas and Norman Powell. They also watched Fred VanVleet head to the locker room and then return after taking a hard fall on his shoulder, then watched Pascal Siakam take a hard fall as well. Though the injuries have meant 13 starting lineups for Toronto already this season, VanVleet will take injuries now if it means good health later on. “In my three years here, we’ve been blessed to avoid the injury bug, so maybe it’s catching up to us,” VanVleet said. “We’ll take it in December.”
- Stellar close: Despite an uncharacteristic 7-for-19 shooting performance against the Magic, Kawhi Leonard has been having a huge close to 2018 for the Raptors. The seven-year vet is averaging 29.3 points, 7.9 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.8 steals in 35.8 minutes per game over 11 games played this month. He’s shooting 51 percent from the floor, 41 percent from beyond the arc and 89 percent from the free-throw line and has topped 20 points in a career-best 12 straight games (Nov. 29 - Dec. 28). His 29.3 point-per-game average for December is fourth in the league, trailing only James Harden, Paul George and Anthony Davis.