Game Preview: Raptors @ Bulls

What to watch tonight as the Raptors conclude a back-to-back set on the road in Chicago against the shorthanded Bulls (8 PM ET, TSN, TSN 1050).

Better Living Through Ball Movement: Can the Raptors continue to get much better ball movement post-Rudy Gay trade? In their last three games, they’ve posted assist totals of 19, 23 and matched a season high with 24 last night against Philadelphia.

Kyle Lowry, the subject of some pretty intense trade speculation of late, has led the way. He’s paced the Raptors in assists for 13 consecutive games and racked up another 11 last night to go with just one turnover.

The addition of pass-first point guard Greivis Vasquez is only going to boost those totals, but it’s been DeMar DeRozan who’s been a surprising distributor of late. The high-scoring shooting guard has only averaged 1.8 assists per game for his career, but he’s nearly doubled that this season and has been particularly good of late, averaging six per game in the three games since the trade.

Can T-Ross Keep It Going? Quite the night for Terrence Ross in career start no. 4. The second-year swingman got hot early on his way to a season-high 24 points and was particularly effective from the right corner.

But consistency has always been the key with Ross and head coach Dwane Casey remains hesitant to anoint him as a long-term fixture at small forward just yet (1:22 mark). Should be a great test for him tonight, particularly if Luol Deng (Achilles) is able to return to the Bulls lineup after a four-game absence.

New Guys Adjusting The Raptors saw three of their four new additions join the lineup with varying results on Friday night. Vasquez was a bright spot, with 12 points in 17 minutes off the bench, with eight coming in the final frame. He added two assists, but saw a few passes miss the mark with his new teammates strictly out of a lack of familiarity with where they prefer or expect the pass. More from Vasquez on his start with Toronto below…

John Salmons and Patrick Patterson also made their debuts with the Raptors and combined for eight points on 2-of-8 shooting shooting. Both looked somewhat tentative in a new situation, which didn’t surprise Casey.

“I thought they were a little tight, playing tonight for the first time which is very understandable,” Casey said. “I like what I saw. Going forward I think they are going to mix in quite well.”

Can ‘The Doctor of Denial’ Stay Strong? Shout out to play-by-play man Matt Devlin for a new Amir Johnson nickname after another big time block.

But getting back to his offence for a second…

With his 8-for-11 shooting night vs. the Sixers, Johnson has hit 47 of his 64 field goal attempts since going 0-for-1 against the Nuggets on Dec. 1st. That’s good for a shooting percentage of .734 with averages of 21.2 points and 9.2 rebounds per game over that span.

Johnson now boasts the third-highest field goal percentage in the league among qualified players at .613, trailing only Andre Drummond of the Pistons and DeAndre Jordan of the Clippers.

Expect A Low Scoring Affair? Big stat for the Raptors this season is their ability to stay in games if they can keep opponent scoring low. They’re 8-4 when opponents score under 100, while the banged up Bulls have averaged just 79.5 points per game over their last four games (they’ve gone 1-3 during that stretch). On the season, the Bulls ranks 28th in the league at 92.3 points per game.

The Bulls have served up one of those low-scoring losses to the Raptors already (more on that below) and have taken nine of the last 12 meetings with the Raptors.

By The Numbers: Raptors @ Bulls

Team Comparison
2013-14 AVERAGES 2013-14 RANKINGS
PPG  98.5  92.3 PPG  18  28
FG%  .431  .423 FG%  24  28
3FG%  .338  .324 3FG%  22  27
FT%  .785 .782 FT%  7  8
OFF  12.2  13.0 OFF  7  4
DEF  30.4  33.1 DEF  24  8
REB  42.6  46.1 REB  16  3
AST  18.0  21.7 AST  30  T-14
STL  7.1  6.4 STL  T-21  28
TO  15.0  16.7 TO  T-14  27
BLK  4.5  4.7 BLK  T-20  T-14

Last Time They Met: Despite DeMar DeRozan matching a career-high of 37 points, the Raptors were walloped 96-80 by the Derrick Rose-less Bulls in one of their worst home losses of the season back on November 15th. Highlights below, if you dare.

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