Chicago Bulls (0-0 SU, 0-0 ATS, 0-0 O/U) vs. Toronto Raptors (0-0 SU, 0-0 ATS, 0-0 O/U)
NBA: Thursday, October 19, 2017, Air Canada Centre, Toronto, Ontario, 7:30 pm ET
Line: Toronto -12; Over/Under: 206
A pair of Eastern Conference foes in different situations take the court north of the border. The Chicago Bulls are on the road as they battle the Toronto Raptors Thursday night in the season opener for both teams. Chicago finished 41-41 last season and earned the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference: they were beaten in six games by the top-seeded Celtics. Toronto went 51-31 in the Eastern Conference to finish third: they were beaten in the Eastern Conference semifinals by Cleveland. The Bulls have a 48-33 edge in the all-time regular season series and took two of three last season. The Raptors claimed a 122-120 overtime win in the last matchup here on March 21, snapping an 11 game Bulls win streak in the series.
Chicago Bulls in Complete Disarray
Chicago was a .500 team last season but the core of that team is gone, leaving a team that is the mix for the worst record in the East, at least on paper. Star forward Jimmy Butler is gone, having been dealt to Minnesota in a deal that netted Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn from Minnesota. Dwyane Wade was bought out of his deal and signed with Cleveland. Rajon Rondo (Pelicans), Joffrey Lauvergne (Spurs), Michael Carter-Williams (Hornets) and Isaiah Canaan are all gone as well. The imports are mainly rookies like Lauri Markkanen, Ryan Arcidiacono and Antonio Blakeney. Chicago’s rotation took a blow with a scuffle in practice Tuesday when Bobby Portis broke the jaw of Nikola Mirotic with a punch. Mirotic needs surgery and will miss four to six weeks. Wednesday, the team suspended Portis for eight games for the incident.
The Bulls finished the 2016-17 season 23rd in the league with 102.9 points per game this season. Chicago was 3rd in the league in rebounding with 46.3 boards per contest. The Bulls were 14th in the league in assists with 22.6 dimes per game. Chicago was 6th in scoring defense as they allow 102.4 points a night. Nikola Mirotic contributed 10.6 points plus 5.5 rebounds per game. Robin Lopez (10.4 points, 6.4 rebounds), Cristiano Felicio, Cameron Payne, Dunn, LaVine (when he’s healthy), Markkanen and Portis all are key pieces for coach Fred Hoiberg. Chicago was 26th in field goal percentage by shooting 44.4 percent from the floor. The Bulls were tied for last in the league by splashing 7.6 threes per game and was 26th in the league by shooting 34 percent from beyond the arc.
Toronto Raptors Try to Challenge for Atlantic Division Crown
Toronto had a couple rough stretches last season and that was the difference between finishing atop the East with the Atlantic Division crown and finishing third in the East. The Raptors were two games behind Boston for the Atlantic Division title. Toronto added rookies OG Anunoby and Alfonso McKinney along with veterans K.J. McDaniels (Nets) and C.J. Miles (Pacers) to their rotation, which has the core intact. The bench group took a hit though as Patrick Patterson, DeMarre Carroll, P.J. Tucker and Cory Joseph all left via trade or free agency. Good depth scoring and quality veteran leadership in the second group will be something Dwane Casey is going to have to address.
The Raptors finished last season 10th in the league by averaging 106.9 points per game. Toronto was in the middle of the pack on the glass, ranking 18th with 43.3 boards per game. The Raptors were last in the league in assists with 18.5 dimes a night. Toronto was 8th in scoring defense as they give up 102.6 points per game. DeMar DeRozan led Toronto with 27.3 points plus 5.2 boards per contest. Jonas Valanciunas averaged 12 points plus 9.5 boards per contest. Kyle Lowry is the floor general for the Raptors and he contributed with 22.4 points plus seven assists and 1.48 steals per game. Toronto received solid production from guys like Serge Ibaka (14.8 points, 6.8 rebounds, 1.57 blocks) and Norman Powell: Miles and McDaniels will be looked at to contribute here. The Raptors were 11th in the league in field goal percentage by shooting 46.4 percent from the field. Toronto was tied for 21st in the league by sinking 8.8 three pointers per game. The Raptors were 13th in the league in three point shooting as they hit 36.3 percent from beyond the arc.
- Bulls are 0-4 ATS in their last 4 games overall
- Bulls are 0-4 ATS in their last 4 vs. Eastern Conference
- Bulls are 0-4 ATS in their last 4 vs. NBA Atlantic
- Raptors are 9-4 ATS in their last 13 games playing on 3 or more days rest
This is a story of two teams with different outlooks. Chicago dismantled their team from a season ago, jettisoning their top two scoring options from a season ago in an effort to get younger. The incident with Portis and Mirotic merely thinned the Bulls’ choices for veteran options here: LaVine isn’t expected back until December likely as he recovers from a torn ACL suffered last season. Toronto, despite their bench losses, still has a formidable starting unit and that should be more than enough to derail any upset hopes by the young Bulls. Give the points and take the Raptors here.