The Chicago Bulls and Toronto Raptors are scheduled to meet in Tampa Bay at Amalie Arena on Thursday night. It’s been a weird week for the Raptors, but their entire season has been a bit on the different side. Well, for one, the Raptors are playing this season in Tampa instead of Toronto. Second, this season has been pretty terrible for the Raptors. It’s been a long time since the Raptors have been this down and out with a record of 20-31.
The last week has been all over the place, though. They went from blowing out the Golden State Warriors in an epic 130-77 beatdown, followed up to narrowly beat the Washington Wizards at the buzzer, 103-101, and then most recently a bad loss against a short-handed Lakers team on Tuesday, 110-101.
If anything, the win over the Wizards was entertaining, as Gary Trent Jr. buried a last-second three with no time left for the win. The win over the Warriors ended a four-game losing streak for the Raptors. It had to feel good to beat up on somebody during what has been a turbulent season. There haven’t been many games where the Raptors could put the game on cruise control in the fourth quarter.
The Raptors wanted to deal Kyle Lowry at the trade deadline. They didn’t want to give Lowry up for cheap, so retained his services. Masai and Bobby Webster probably should have tried harder to find a deal. Lowry isn’t even playing at the moment, as he’s on the mend for at least a week because of a foot infection. An ingrown toenail comes to mind, but over a week, even if it requires minor surgery, seems like a long time.
I don’t think Lowry is in a rush to go back on the court, though. He is looking to cash in this offseason with one final sizable contract before retiring. Somebody will pay, maybe overpay, and I wouldn’t want to risk a serious injury if I were him. Lowry is not playing tonight, nor is Fred VanVleet, Jalen Harris, Rodney Hood, Pat McCaw, and Paul Watson. Without much firepower, the Lakers were able to lean on their defense for a 110-101 win.
The Chicago Bulls made a surprise move at the trade deadline when they acquired Nikola Vucevic. Instead of selling, like many anticipated, the Bulls pulled in Vucevic to give Zach LaVine somebody to work with. The Bulls enter Tampa with a record of 21-28. They are 10th and 2.5 games behind the New York Knicks for a playoff spot. On paper they should get there, but this would be a big miss if they don’t after trading for Vucevic. Head below for our free Bulls vs. Raptors pick on April 8, 2021.
Chicago Bulls vs. Toronto Raptors NBA Betting Odds:
Bulls vs. Raptors Prediction:
The Bulls are going for it in the postseason. First, they have to reach the playoffs, though. That’s no guarantee for the Bulls who are 2.5 games behind a playoff berth. On paper with Zach LaVine and Nikola Vucevic, the Bulls have what constitutes a playoff team. While it took a minute for Vucevic to get comfortable in Chicago, he’s starting to fit right in with LaVine.
Following a six-game losing streak, the Bulls head into Thursday night with back-to-back wins against the Brooklyn Nets, 115-107, and Indiana Pacers, 113-97. What was most impressive in those games was the defensive effort. The Bulls were hemorrhaging a lot of points early this season, but they’ve progressively gotten better in that regard. The addition of Vucevic really gives them a new level on defense.
The Bulls are 21st in the league with 113.5 points allowed per game. That doesn’t sound so hot, but the Bulls should continue to play decent defense with Vucevic in the mix now. The Nets were without James Harden and Kevin Durant, but nevertheless, Kyrie Irving and new additions Blake Griffin and LaMarcus Aldridge were active. Holding the Pacers below 100 points was a pretty good look as well.
If the defense comes full circle for the Bulls, expect them to go on a run. They possess enough offense for them to be a well-balanced team if that’s the case. With the Raptors sputtering and down Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet tonight, the Bulls should be able to exploit some mismatches in this game. The Raptors likely need a big game from Gary Trent Jr. Trent Jr. probably keeps this game within reach, but can’t see the Raptors overcoming an improved Bulls squad.
The Toronto offense has been far too inconsistent. Unfortunately, Pascal Siakam has failed to become the go-to player the Raptors hoped for. They’ve failed to score more than 105 points in four of their last five games. Sure, beating the Wizards at the buzzer is fine, but needing that three to get to 103 points against the Wizards’ defense isn’t much to get excited over. The Bulls are a better team than this spread indicates. I don’t think the oddsmakers and public respects Vucevic enough as they should.