The Raptors head to Chicago to play the Bulls on Thursday night. Both teams have finished well short of expectations, and the loser of this game will improve their ping pong ball odds and the chance at having a higher pick being there. Toronto has had to call Tampa Bay home all year, and it was just a little rough not having a home base.
The fact that the Raptors have a near-.500 record at Amalie Arena is nothing short of exceptional. As the NBA’s only team that plays outside of the US, it has been a whole lifestyle change for Toronto this season. They dealt with injuries to a number of key guys, with the rotation ever-changing. They stayed relevant in the playoff hunt for much of the season, but it became clear that they would have to wait until 2021-22.
Chicago has no excuses, really. Yes, Zach LaVine missed 12 games on the health and safety protocol list. But the fact is that the team had a losing record before he went down. They brought in Nikola Vucevic at the All-Star break but somehow got even worse. That move was probably more about next season than this one, but still. If two All-Stars can’t help you win, who/what can?
The Bulls are heavy favorites, with the spread set at CHI -10. The over/under is 218.5.
Raptors Looking for Road Win
If the Raptors win this game, it would be good for them. And if they came up short and took the loss, well, more power to them and their higher pick. The roster still has a lot of talent, and they have several of their key players already locked up for the future. Their starting frontcourt should be set with OG Anunoby-Pascal Siakam-Khem Birch.
Malachi Flynn will have a chance to usurp Kyle Lowry as the starting PG, with Fred VanVleet starting alongside him. They will need to add a bit to the bench, but the team is going to be dangerous. If they can do a sign-and-trade for Lowry, they might be able to add some key assets. And if they choose to keep him, well, that’s cool too.
As for the game with Chicago, just play hard, and for one another.
Bulls Finishing Up Disappointing Campaign
There were supposed to be a lot more wins for the Bulls this season. While Devin Booker’s Suns have the second-best record in the NBA, Chicago is going nowhere fast. LaVine is still yet to appear in a playoff game, and it will be another year before he can realize that reality.
He is by no means as talented as Tracy McGrady ever was, but his situation is eerily similar to what TMac went through. McGrady didn’t win a playoff series until he joined the Spurs in the twilight of his career in 2013. That was the only time he ever advanced. For LaVine, this marks the seventh year in a row missing the postseason.
Chicago should finish the year strong and see if that can give them some positive momentum heading to next year.
Game Goes to the Wire
Make sure to ride with the underdog. The game will be a close one.
FREE PLAY: TOR +10
OVER/UNDER: OVER 218.5
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