The Toronto Raptors (17-17) and Chicago Bulls (15-17) will look to continue their respective climbs up the Eastern Conference standings when they meet on Sunday. Toronto is in third place in the crowded Eastern Conference standings. Chicago is in ninth place, but only one game behind the Raptors.
With Toronto hosting Chicago in Amalie, Florida, let’s find out if the Raptors can avoid the upset as the sportsbook betting home favorite. Check out the NBA Odds for this Sunday night showdown when they go live.
Chicago Bulls at Toronto Raptors
When: Sunday, Feb. 28, 2021, at 7 p.m. ET
Where: Amalie Arena, Tampa, FL
TV: NBALP, SN, NBC Sports Chicago
Radio: TSN Radio 1050670 The Score
LaVine, Bulls, Better Than You Think
Phoenix snapped Chicago’s three-game winning streak in Friday’s 106-97 home loss against , but the Bulls are better than you think this season and Zach LaVine is a major reason for that.
The seventh-year shooting guard is having a monster campaign by averaging a career-high 28.7 points per game. LaVine is shooting 52.4% from the field and 44.2% from three-point distance.
The high-flying former dunk king scored a team-high 24 points in Friday’s loss against the Suns, but the Bulls were held to 15 points in the fourth quarter. Coby White scored 19 points for the Bulls and Thaddeus Young added 13 points and 10 rebounds, but the Bulls committed 10 fourth-quarter turnovers.
“We just turned the ball over at an alarming rate. It broke our momentum,” coach Billy Donovan said after his team finished with 19 giveaways. “We just didn’t make good decisions with the ball.”
Chicago has won six of nine. The Bulls average a healthy 114.7 points per game (8th) on 48.6% shooting from the field (4th) and 37.9% from beyond the arc (9th). Defensively, Chicago allows 114.8 points per game (24th) on 47.2% shooting from the field (21st) and 35.3% shooting from three-point distance (6th).
Raptors Finding New Identity
The Raptors found their new identity after a rough start that saw them drop six of their first seven games and eight of 10 to start the 2020-21 campaign. Now, Toronto has won five of seven and 10 of its last 15 games to get back in the mix for a top four seed in the Eastern Conference.
The Raptors got past the Houston Rockets 122-111 on Friday night as assistant coach Sergio Scariolo took charge with head coach Nick Nurse, and five other assistants, all sidelined because of health and safety protocols.
Scariolo has 25 years of coaching experience overseas and has been the head coach of the Spanish national team since 2009.
His teams have won the FIBA Eurobasket tournament three times (2009, 2011 and 2015) and the FIBA World Cup once (2019). He also coached Spain to a silver medal at the 2012 Olympics and a bronze medal at the 2016 Olympics. Just last week, Scariolo coached Spain to a pair of victories in the Eurobasket qualifiers in Poland.
“It’s a 3-0 week,” Raptors guard Kyle Lowry said.
Toronto got a team-high 30 points from Norman Powell, 25 points from Fred VanVleet and 20 from Lowry in the win over the Rockets. The Raptors average 112.9 points per game (16th) on 45.2% shooting from the field (23rd) and 38.3% from three-point distance (6th). Defensively, the Raptors are limiting the opposition to 110.4 points per game (8th) on 45.2% shooting from the field (7th) and 37.2% from beyond the arc (18th).
Analysis and Prediction
I like what I’ve seen out of Chicago so far this season. Zach LaVine has been off the charts and young guard Coby White (15.8 ppg) is a player with star potential. Having said that, I’m fully expecting Toronto to scratch out the hard-fought home win against the lesser experienced Bulls.
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The Raptors are really starting to find their new identity after parting ways with veteran big men Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol in the offseason. Veteran forward Norman Powell is having a fantastic campaign as he puts up 17.7 points per contest. Young power forward Chris Boucher is averaging a career-high 13.0 points per contest while shooting a blistering 44.7% from beyond the arc.
Fred VanVleet and Pascal Siakim both average an identical 20.1 points per game and Kyle Lowry is still doing his thing by putting up 18.0 points per contest.
Chicago is 12-4 ATS in its last 16 road games, but has dropped six straight road games against Toronto while going 3-6 ATS in the last nine meetings against the Raptors. I’m going with the veteran-laden 2019 NBA champs to get by on experience and the edge in depth.
Pick: Raptors 117, Bulls 112
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