The Toronto Raptors were expected by many to take a step back this season. Toronto lost Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green to free agency this summer. Most teams don’t just lose their franchise player and continue to play championship-caliber basketball, but that’s exactly what we’ve seen Toronto do through the first month-and-a-half of the 2019-20 season.
Toronto has actually lost 3 straight games entering Monday’s game in Chicago. It’s the first time all season that the Raps have lost multiple games in a row, and the skid is coming on the heels of a 7-game win streak. The losses have come against 3 of the better teams in basketball (Miami, Houston, Philadelphia), but it’s still the first adversity we’ve seen this team face in quite some time.
The Toronto Raptors will look to get back to their winning ways on Monday night in Chicago. The Bulls have lost back-to-back games to fall back to 8 games under the .500 mark at 8-16. Chicago has gotten off to a far worse start than I expected, as I believed this team could legitimately fight for one of the last Eastern Conference playoff spots. It’s still too early to say they’re dead in the water, but they’re going to have to start turning things around sooner than later.
The Bulls opened as 7.5-point underdogs for this game at MyBookie, but the line has since shifted a bit to Raptors -5.5. The game has an over/under of 214.5, as well.
2019 ATS Home
2019 ATS Away
2019 O/U Home
2019 O/U Away
Raptors’ Thin Rotations
Toronto’s depth helped the team win its first championship in franchise history last June. Kawhi Leonard was obviously the lynchpin and primary reason for the Raptors going all the way, but he couldn’t have done it by himself. The Raptors constantly got major contributions from their supporting cast, which eventually overwhelmed a shorthanded Warriors team.
Kyle Lowry, Fred VanVleet, Pascal Siakam, Serge Ibaka, Marc Gasol and Green all stepped up in a big way. The Raptors didn’t have any obvious ways to replace either Leonard or Green over the summer, though, which left the team’s roster looking a little thinner. That’s one of the reasons some were down on Toronto’s prospects of challenging for a second straight title this season.
Head coach Nick Nurse has had to rely on a very tight rotation thus far this season. While it has helped translate into plenty of wins, I am at least a little worried that this team could wear down as the season progresses. Playing his key guys like Siakam, VanVleet and Lowry upwards of 40 minutes every game has to take a physical toll at some point, right?
Siakam and VanVleet have been incredible, especially considering Lowry and Ibaka have missed time with injuries already. Siakam is averaging a career-high 24.6 points per game along with 8.5 rebounds and a shade under 4 assists. He has replaced Leonard as the new face of the Raptors’ franchise, which is why the team rewarded him with a lucrative new extension worth $130 million just before the beginning of the season. That’s looking like a smarter move with each passing game.
Siakam has been a matchup nightmare for most teams given his length and his guard-like ability to get anywhere he wants on the floor with the ball. The Bulls haven’t been a bad defensive team this season – they rank 12th in efficiency – but Chicago has struggled mightily when it comes to containing opposing bigs. The Bulls are just 29th in the league in rebound rate, which means the likes of Siakam, Ibaka and Gasol should probably feast on the boards in this one.
It also won’t help that VanVleet is listed as questionable to play tonight after bruising his knee last night against the 76ers. If he’s out, Lowry will likely play another 40-plus minutes while guys like Norman Powell and Terence Davis log heavy minutes on the wing. VanVleet left the game after playing just 12 minutes, so I’m skeptical that he suits up tonight.
The Bulls almost staged a mutiny last season when Jim Boylen was named as the team’s interim coach, but that seemed to cool over as the season progressed. Chicago was dreadful last season, but that didn’t stop the team’s brass from rewarding Boylen with an extension in the offseason. So far, though, that’s looking like a poor decision. The Bulls have been one of the more underwhelming teams in basketball, and Boylen reportedly remains a pretty unpopular figure among his players.
Chicago played well yesterday in Miami, but they came up just short in a 110-105 defeat. Boylen rode his starters hard last night, as Lauri Markkanen (38 minutes), Wendell Carter Jr. (40) and Zach LaVine (41) all played massive minutes. Kris Dunn logged 34, while Coby White chimed in with 32 off the bench.
Whether they have much juice left in the tank for a tough matchup with the Raptors tonight remains to be seen. This is one of the youngest teams in basketball, and they have predictably struggled against good teams. Chicago is a brutal 0-9 so far this season against teams with records of .500 or above. They’re 8-7 against teams with losing records.
I’m not sure what’s going on with Markkanen this season. He was expected to take another step forward in his third NBA season, but he seems to have regressed instead. The 22-year-old averaged nearly 19 points with 9 rebounds per game last season, but so far this year he’s down to just 14.3 points and 6.8 boards per game. His playing time has taken a hit, but his shooting has also fallen off a cliff. The Bulls needed Markkanen to continue to develop if they were going to challenge for a playoff spot, and so far that hasn’t happened at all.
I like Toronto tonight. I assume the VanVleet injury is what caused the line to shift, but I still think Toronto can handle Chicago here even if he’s out. The Bulls have just been dreadful compared to expectations, and this is a golden opportunity for the Raptors to get back on track.
Bet on the Raptors to cover the 5.5-point spread at -110 odds.
Taylor Smith has been a staff writer with GamblingSites.org since early 2017. Taylor is primarily a sports writer, though he will occasionally dabble in other things like politics and entertainment betting. His primary specialties are writing about the NBA, Major League Baseball, NFL and domestic and international soccer. Fringe sports like golf and horse racing aren’t exactly his cup of tea, bu ...
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