The 24-11 Toronto Raptors hit the road for a matchup against the 18-18 Chicago Bulls in a battle between two elite wings (8pm ET Saturday).
DeMar DeRozan (pictured) is having a career year for Toronto (27.4 points, 5.1 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game), but Jimmy Butler might be playing even better (25.2 points, 6.8 rebounds and 4.6 assists per game).
Toronto has had a great season overall, but has struggled a bit as of late, losing three of its last five games. The Raptors’ normally fantastic offense hasn’t had quite as much punch, and they have been inconsistent on defense.
Chicago has rebounded nicely from a cold stretch and has now won four of its last six games. No one is confusing the Bulls for a legitimate contender, but they definitely have the talent necessary to be a solid playoff team.
This Raptors vs Bulls preview now pinpoints the main influences that could decide the game and ends with our betting picks and predictions, advising the best odds to take from the best known offshore USA sportsbooks.
Can the Bulls Get Any Production Out of the Point Guard Position?
There’s been quite a bit of drama with Bulls point guard Rajon Rondo this season. He’s been a negative on both sides of the court this season and has now gone from starter to being benched entirely for the Bulls’ last three games.
Unfortunately, Chicago doesn’t have many other viable options at that position. Michael Carter-Williams is shooting 29.9 percent from the field and 16.7 percent from three-point range, and Jerian Grant is at 35.5 and 29.5 in those categories, respectively. Both are capable on defense, but not nearly strong enough to make up for their offensive ineptitude.
This could be a big problem going against Kyle Lowry, Toronto’s star point guard. Lowry plays both sides of the ball very well and has developed into a deadly three-point shooter.
Whether it’s Rondo, Carter-Williams or Grant playing most of the minutes, Chicago needs at least a decent game from its point guards on both offense and defense to win.
Can the Raptors Find a Power Forward to Challenge Taj Gibson and Nikola Mirotic?
Similar to the Bulls’ point guard problem, the Raptors are severely undermanned at power forward, but for a different reason: injuries. With Patrick Patterson likely out with a knee injury for the fourth straight game and Jared Sullinger continuing to recover from foot surgery, Toronto is down to just rookie Pascal Siakam in terms of players who primarily play the 4.
The Bulls are actually pretty strong at the power forward position, on the other hand. Taj Gibson averages an efficient 12.0 points and 6.9 rebounds in 28.0 minutes per game with very strong defense, and Nikola Mirotic (9.6 points per game) is always a threat to score big off the bench.
Siakam is not a big-minute guy, which means other Raptors will have to slide up or down in position to check Patterson and Mirotic. If they can find someone to fill that void admirably, great. If not, Chicago will dominate that matchup.
Can Chicago Dominate the Boards?
If the Bulls are to pull out a win against the more talented Raptors, they’ll likely have to dominate the boards. They are a weak offensive team and don’t make many three-pointers, but getting extra shots can help cover up for those weaknesses. Chicago doesn’t have one dominant rebounder, but it crashes the glass well together as a unit.
Incidentally, the Bulls lead the NBA in offensive rebound percentage and the Raptors rank last in defensive rebound percentage. That could play a factor Saturday night.
It could be an even bigger factor since Toronto’s frontcourt depth is being tested now. Big men will be forced to play more minutes and could be too fatigued to contend with the Bulls’ mob of rebounders.
Our Preview’s Toronto Raptors vs. Chicago Bulls Betting Picks & Predictions
Given both of these teams’ recent play and the fact that the Bulls are at home (they are a solid 11-7 there this season), Chicago may actually win this game. I like Jimmy Butler to win his matchup against DeMar DeRozan, and the Bulls will just have to weather the storm that Kyle Lowry will likely create with his great offensive play.
Patrick Patterson is also a very key bench player on both ends of the floor that Toronto will probably be missing. If news that he will indeed play (surprisingly) comes out, feel free to reconsider this preview’s picks and betting predictions that follow below.
- Most of the online sportsbooks have the Raptors favored by 2.5 points, but I think taking the Bulls +2.5pts to cover the spread is the smart decision @ best odds of -110 with either BetOnline or Bookmaker.
- The over-under for this contest is mostly commonly posted at 207.5. I would advise betting the under, again @ -110 betting odds and with either BetOnline or Bookmaker. Both teams play a slow pace and Toronto is still recovering from a six-game road trip and may want to keep possessions to a minimum.