Having hurt his back on Wednesday, Kyle Lowry dressed for Toronto’s game on Friday but did not play, which was probably one of the main reasons the Chicago Bulls (42-28) were able to rout the Raptors (41-28) at home, 108-92. The Bull’s Nikola Mirotic’s had 29 points and 11 rebounds and unfortunately for the Raps, they moved a half game ahead of Toronto in the Eastern Conference standings, meaning with the win over them, the Bulls took hold of the East’s third seed, while the Raptors dropped down to fourth. Chicago got off to an early lead thanks to the hot shooting of Mirotic and smooth tick-tack-toe ball movement by their big players Joakim Noah and Pau Gasol.
DeMar Derozan scored 27 points for the Raps Toronto, most coming in the first half when the Raptors’ offense looked dominant enough to keep up with the Bulls’. However, Toronto went limp in the third quarter and—despite a 9-2 run to open the fourth period they just could not come up with the defensive stops necessary to get ahead in the game. Now dropping six of their past nine games and 11 of 15, the Raps need to simply look at the next game and not get ahead of themselves. Many analysts are saying that with the Raps looking ahead to the postseason and ignoring the games which remain in their regular-season schedule, is precisely the reason the Raptors have been playing so poorly lately. They are missing the point (literally), and not playing and improving in the moment.
The Raps’ point guard Greivis Vasquez said postgame, after the 108-92 loss at the United Center, “We haven’t done nothing, I don’t even know why we’re thinking that we’re something. We’re nobody.” That is the kind of wake up call they will be getting if they lose to the lowly Knicks (14-55) in their next match-up.
“I think we’re looking too far ahead“
Lowry, already assessed the Raptors’ vibe, which has gotten way too casual and surprisingly complacent in the last 3 weeks. He didn’t like what he saw Friday night and told the media about it postgame. “I think we need to stop worrying about the playoffs and start worrying about the next game,” Lowry said. “I think we’re looking too far ahead. We’re thinking way too far ahead. I think we’re worried about things that are two, three months away. We need to worry about the day-to-day stuff.”
The battle is starting to heat up in their division and may get out of hand, if they want to stay near the top Toronto will have to do their best to take the game away from the incoming Knicks, on Sunday afternoon. What’s at risk? To match last season’s record, the Raptors need to go 7-6. More importantly, they are 12 games behind the Hawks in the Eastern standings and they’ve slipped behind Cleveland and Chicago, too now. Despite being safely headed to the postseason and guaranteed a top-4 seed if they clinch the Atlantic, Toronto is at risk of losing home-court advantage if their first-round opponents, the Wizards, let’s say, end up with a better record. Anything is possible in the stretch.
For this reason the Raps will do their best Sunday to set their record straight and get their pride back, as coach Dwane Casey said, “We have to show some defensive pride.” They should do just that so we’ll take them as winners Sunday.
Our Pick: Raps over Knicks, 99-87