Chicago Bulls vs. Toronto Raptors
Date and Time: Tuesday, March 21, 2017, 7 p.m. ET
Location: Air Canada Centre, Toronto, ON
Bulls vs. Raptors TV Coverage: ESPN
The Bulls keep searching for something that works and they’ve come full circle in their attempt to find it. Once exiled to the end of the bench and having the dreaded DNP-coach’s decision next to his name in the boxscore for several games, Rajon Rondo is back in the starting lineup after Dwyane Wade was lost for the season with an injury. The Rondo story was big a few weeks back when Fred Hoiberg benched him, but now he’s one of the more talented players on the roster. And that should tell you something about the state of the Bulls.
During halftime of a loss at Washington last week, the Bulls were challenged by Hoiberg to start doing things the right way. The coach was frustrated that his club kept losing games in similar fashion, mainly not getting back in transition, turning the ball over not rebounding. At the time the Bulls trailed by 19 points and they regrouped to make a game of it in the second half, closing the final gap to 112-107 and covering the spread. There may have been some carryover as the Bulls beat the Jazz 95-86 in their next outing and go for their first winning streak in a month.
The loss of Kyle Lowry broke up one of the finest backcourts in the Eastern Conference and the Raptors have struggled since their second leading scorer has been out of the lineup. Lowry hasn’t played since before the All-Star break and Toronto is 8-5 SU and 7-6 ATS. The Raptors had their best offensive game since the break on Sunday, beating the Pacers 116-91 for their second straight win. But the offense has floundered minus Lowry’s 22.6 points per game. The under is 8-5 in 13 games since the break.
It’s taken some time, but Toronto finally got what it needed without Lowry. Their balanced attack saw all five starters score in double figures and seven players scored at least 10 points. It was the kind of effort Dwane Casey needed from his club after struggling to find a groove offensively. Now the Raptors will look to end a slide that’s reached 11 games against the Bulls. It’s been a surprising run considering the difference in the team’s records over the past few seasons.
Player to Watch
With Wade done for the year with an elbow injury, the Bulls will rely even more on Jimmy Butler to supply the offense. He’s done a fine job against the Raptors this season. Butler went off for 42 points in Chicago’s overtime win in January hitting 10 of 25 shots and 18 of 20 free throws. He also grabbed 10 rebounds in that game in one of his most dominating performances of the season.
Toronto paid closer attention to Chicago’s leading scorer in the next meeting, holding Butler to only 19 points, but he was again a force at the free throw line. Butler visited the stripe 19 times the last time the teams met and made 15 of his attempts. The Bulls won that game 105-94. Butler will try and take the game over and even when he has an off-night from the field he gets to the stripe and does damage. His shot wasn’t falling in the second game so Butler became more of a facilitator and dished out 12 assists.
Bulls vs. Raptors Free Picks
The Bulls played their best game in some time beating the Jazz on Saturday spurned on by a solid defensive effort. But their offense is still a disaster and will continue that way with Wade done for the year. They got good efforts from Bobby Portis and Denzel Valentine, but those have been few and far between all season.
Losing 11 games in a row to a team is hard to do and it’s even harder to believe considering how these clubs have fared the past few seasons. Both Toronto losses this season have come on the road and playing at the ACC will make the difference. The Raptors have an edge in the front court with Jonas Valanciunas and Sergi Ibaka and should dominate the paint. Check back for odds at BookMaker.eu and go with the home team to end the skid and cover the spread.
Bulls vs. Raptors ATS Pick: Give the points with Toronto at BookMaker.eu
Bulls vs. Raptors Score Prediction: Raptors 105 – Bulls 98