Game Preview: Raptors vs. Bulls

The Raptors return to ACC tonight for a first look at the Chicago Bulls (7 PM, TSN, TSN 1050). Toronto took two of three matchups against the Eastern Conference contender last season, here are some story lines as the Raptors aim for a third win in four outings overall tonight.

Will Derrick Rose Play?

Adam Fluck of Bulls.com reported Thursday that Derrick Rose missed a second straight day of practice with a sore right hamstring, but the 2011 MVP is hopeful he’ll be ready to go tonight at ACC.

Bulls head coach Tom Tibodeau said that Rose is considered day-to-day with the injury and will be reevaluated after the morning shootaround on Friday.

Dwane Casey said on Thursday that he was preparing for a Bulls team with Rose in the lineup.

“He’s a tough kid. If he can walk, I’m sure he’ll play,” said Casey. “He’s one of the most dynamic players in the NBA with the basketball, his speed and quickness is unprecedented from what I’ve seen. The only other guy as fast with the ball that I’ve seen is Allen Iverson.”

Watch more from Casey’s on Thursday below…

Rose had been rounding into form as the Bulls head into this one aiming for a third straight win. He’d been plagued by giveaways through the first five games of his return (25), but he didn’t turn it over once in Monday’s home win over the Cavaliers.

He’s been a Raptor killer over the course of his career (28.7 points, 10.3 assists), but also hasn’t played in the last five meetings between these two teams.

Getting Defensive

This has the potential for an interesting defensive slugfest between two teams that have really cranked things up at that end of the floor recently.

The Bulls have allowed an average of just 77 points their last two games and come into this one ranked fourth in defensive efficiency (94.2 points per 100 possessions).

Toronto’s recent improvement has also been rooted at that end of the floor. It came in waves in their double-OT loss to the Rockets and was impressive against the Grizzlies in Wednesday’s 103-87 road win.

Toronto comes into this one ranked eighth in defensive efficiency (97.9) and have held opponents under 100 points in six of nine games this season.

The Raptors are also starting to use the strong defence to fuel their scoring. Over their last three games, the Raptors have outscored teams by 26 on points off turnovers.

But further defensive improvement can happen closer to the basket. They’re allowing teams to shoot 42 per cent from mid-range and over 55 per cent in the paint — numbers both higher than the current league average and last season’s edition of the club.

Home Cooking For Remainder Of November

The Raptors will play six of their next seven games at ACC, a break after a stretch that saw them play six of nine on the road to start the campaign — tied for a league-high with Washington and Cleveland.

Nothing like a little home cooking, but the Raptors may want to be wary of the menu with the Bulls, Nets, Heat and much improved Blazers among that group.

Boozer’s Been A Bruiser

There’s a lot of the focus on Rose heading into this one tonight and Luol Deng has done this to the Raptors the last couple of seasons.

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But Carlos Boozer has been the real problem for the Raptors of late. The power forward has averaged a gaudy 24.5 points and 11.3 rebounds in his last four meetings against Toronto. Can they keep the Bulls’ current leading scorer in check tonight?

Keep The Ball Moving

It wasn’t exactly a radical change, but ball movement was better for the Raptors on Wednesday and particularly off the top with seven assists in the first quarter. The Raptors went on to dish out just 14 for the game, with that Lowry (6), DeRozan (4) and Gay (4) trio accounting for all of them.

The Raptors enter play on Friday ranked last in assists per game at 16.3, punctuated by only 10 on over 100 field goal attempts against the Rockets on Monday.

Ross Rounding Into Form?

It’s been a head-turning week for Terrence Ross, who provided a big lift off the bench for the Raptors on the road.

The second-year swingman led the reserves in scoring during both games and averaged 8.5 points on 7-of-11 shooting from the field to go with 3.5 rebounds in 48 minutes of action.

But it’s been his defence that’s caught the eye of Casey.

“He’s really given it to us defensively. His anticipation, his lock-and-go on staggers has been great. His hands, his pressure on the ball, his rebounding… has been great and I think that intensity, that focus on the defensive end has helped him offensively with shot selection.”

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