After an impressive 103-93 rout of the Washington Wizards, the Toronto Raptors head north to host the Chicago Bulls Wednesday night at the Air Canada Centre.
Toronto (29-24) has not missed a beat since the All-Star break and are arguably the hottest team in the Eastern Conference, winning three straight along with a 7-3 mark in their past 10 contests. Oh ya, they also lead the Atlantic Division – four games ahead of the Brooklyn Nets.
Chicago (27-25) continues to impress in light of Derrick Rose’s absence and Luol Deng’s departure. In typical Bulls fashion, their success can be attributed to ball movement, tenacious defense and smart coaching.
Chicago has outperformed Toronto recently, winning six of the past 10 head to head matches. This should be an entertaining match with significant playoff implications.
Here are the Cage’s Keys To The Game.
Contain Joakim Noah
Talk about a tough guard for Jonas Valanciunas. Joakim Noah is one of my favourite players in the league since he plays with a motor and gives 100 % on every possession. The former Florida Gator is again having an impressive season, averaging 11.9 points, 11.5 rebounds and 1.4 blocks and will be a nuisance for the sophomore.
Pound The Glass
The Bulls are an elite rebounding team in the NBA, currently ranking 9th overall in rebounds per game with 44.8. Toronto needs to box out Chicago’s bigs and minimize second chance scoring opportunities.
Toronto can light it up from beyond the arch which will bode well against the Bulls. Chicago has allowed opponents to hit .365 % of 3-pointers attempted – shocking considering their elite defense. Spread the floor and find the open man in on the perimeter!
X-Factor: DeMar DeRozan
Toronto’s lone All-Star was quiet in last night’s tilt with the Wizards, scoring 14 points and collecting four rebounds and three assists. The dynamic swingman is capable of dropping 20+ on any night and has quietly emerged into a versatile and gifted scorer – averaging career highs of 22.4 points, 4.6 rebounds and 3.8 assists. Barring injury, it looks like the Compton native will be mainstay for the Raptors.