Matchup: Chicago Bulls at Toronto Raptors
Records: Bulls (21-53), Raptors (51-23)
Where to Watch
Date: March 26
Time: 7:30 p.m. ET
Radio: Sportsnet 590 The FAN
Location: Scotiabank Arena, Toronto, ON
The Raptors are in action two days after losing to the Charlotte Hornets in gut-wrenching fashion on an unlikely Jeremy Lamb buzzer-beater from past half court. How unlikely was that shot? It was just the third game-winner from beyond half court over the last two decades in the NBA.
MORE: Every late game-winner against the Raptors
The Raptors are sliding a bit of late as they are just 6-6 in March and have lost two straight games. They haven't lost three straight games since way back in November.
Entering last Friday's close loss to the Thunder, the Raptors still had an outside shot at finishing with the best record in the Eastern Conference as they trailed the Bucks by just two games with one of the NBA's easiest remaining schedules. They now find themselves four games back and all but locked into the 2 seed in the East. Inpredictable.com's projections gives the Raptors a 97% chance of finishing there which puts the focus moving forward on getting healthy.
Sunday's loss to the Hornets was the first time that Toronto had it's full rotation together since making the acquisitions for Marc Gasol and Jeremy Lin, as Kyle Lowry returned to the lineup after sitting out four of the five previous games. It was also just the ninth game that Gasol has played alongside both Lowry and Kawhi Leonard as the team looks to build chemistry ahead of the postseason
MORE: Should Gasol or Ibaka start at centre?
While a game against the Bulls could be an opportunity to rest players, time is running out for head coach Nick Nurse to tinker with lineups and settle on a rotation. Sunday's game marked just the fourth time that Leonard, Lowry, Gasol, Pascal Siakam and Danny Green started alongside each other and could be a look the Raptors opt for in April and beyond.
The Bulls are coming off a 31-point loss to the Jazz and have dropped six of their last eight games overall. They will not have their full team for this game as leading scorer Zach LaVine (23.7 PPG) and starting small forward Otto Porter Jr. have been listed as out. The Bulls are also without rookie Wendell Carter Jr. who has not played since mid-January and has since been ruled out for the remainder of the season.
With limited options, look for the Bulls to rely on second-year forward Lauri Markkanen who is averaging 18.9 points per game and has eight 30-point games this season, second among all sophomores behind only Donovan Mitchell.
MORE: Markkanen over Tatum? Ranking the NBA sophomores
The Raptors are 2-0 against the Bulls this season with two more meetings. In addition to the matchup on Tuesday, they play again on Saturday in Chicago.
Kawhi Leonard is averaging a career-high 27.2 PPG. The only players in Raptors history to average more in a season are Vince Carter (27.6 in 2000-01) and DeMar DeRozan (27.3 in 2016-17).
The absence of Zach LaVine rules out a potential one-on-one duel down the stretch with Leonard. Both rank among the top five in made shots in the final three minutes of one-possession games.
Pascal Siakam is averaging 27.0 points, 8.3 rebounds and 4.3 assists over his last three games. Three straight 20-point games is tied for the longest streak of his career.
In three games since returning from suspension, Serge Ibaka has averaged 20.3 minutes while coming off the bench in all three games. In 61 minutes on the floor in those games, the Raptors have been outscored by 27 points, the worst plus-minus of any Raptors player over that span.
According to TeamRankings.com, the Raptors have the NBA's fifth-easiest remaining schedule. Of Toronto's eight remaining games, only one is against a team with a winning record (Brooklyn, 38-37).
Last Time They Played
Date: Dec. 22, 2018 (box score)
Score: Raptors 95, Hornets 89
Raptors: Kawhi Leonard - 27 points, 8-22 FG, 10-11 FT, nine rebounds
Bulls: Lauri Markkanen - 18 points, 6-14 FG, 10 rebounds