The Toronto Raptors face a major exam here in the early season against the Chicago Bulls, a game that will be televised in Canada on TSN2, and in the United States on TNT. This will be the first scheduled regular season nationally televised game the Raptors will play since 2002. That means, the 2013 game against the Hawks does not count, considering it was due to the cancellation of the Boston game due to the bombing.
Despite the Raptors playing on TNT, the main concern on their schedule are a Bulls team with point guard Derrick Rose in the lineup. Rose has missed the last five meetings against the Raptors, obviously caused from the knee injuries he has suffered in the past two seasons. Along with Rose, Pau Gasol and Joakim Noah are an impressive duo of bigs, proving to be as skilled and overwhelming as advertised.
It may be early in the season, but this is the first team the Raptors are facing with contending aspirations; this is a major test that will either prove this Raptors’ early record is for real, or whether they’re being slapped into check.
Raptors Cage’s Keys To The Game
Rose and Doug McDermott are not impressive defenders. Long story short, attack them. While Rose has impressive quicks, he has poor anticipation of offensive players. McDermott is slow footed, and will have neither the athleticism or strength to match up with Terrence Ross or DeMar DeRozan respectively. Now, the Bulls have quite the defensive system, however, where you can expose them is when they start to guard in their individual match-ups.
Be Physical Back
This will likely be the most physical game the Raptors will play in their eight games; hard fouls, bumping, hand-checking, etc. will all be present in this game. In the past, we’ve seen the Raptors fade away from contact, but, this’ll be a game where not only are they going to have to stay composed, but bring the fight back to them. Be as much as a nuisance as they are going to be. Expect to see a lot of James Johnson this evening, and possibly Greg Stiemsma, Tyler Hansbrough or Chuck Hayes to match the bigs.
Watch The One Man Transition: Derrick Rose.
Derrick Rose will run a break on his own, which usually leads to momentum shifting transition layups, foul calls, and wide open perimeter shots. It’s important that the Raptors have a man back at all times, or at least pressure the ball enough that Rose won’t have the ability to go into that second gear and cruise to the finish line. He’s an incredible athlete, and that must be kept in check with physical play, and pressure; Rose is capable of doing anything on the floor, but much rather let him shoot jumpers than attack the lane.
X-Factor: DeMar DeRozan
Rose was quoted that DeRozan “won’t take next leap” until the Raptors make a run in the play-offs. Controversy with the media already between the two Team USA teammates. Couldn’t the very same be said about Rose? Only one meaningful run has been made with him as the leader, yet he was shut down by LeBron James in the Eastern Conference finals in 2011. Put DeRozan in pin-downs, pick-and-rolls, and get a couple dives to sit him in the low post, and hope to see some fouls being called and putting the opposition in trouble. DeRozan tends to feast on the Bulls, throwing it back to last season around this time, when DeRozan single-handedly brought the Raptors back into the game with a game-high 37 points.
@Wolstatsun: “Derrick Rose said DeRozan is an all-star, but won’t take next leap until Raptors make serious noise in East (paraphrasing a bit)”
A little bit of controversy, some all-stars, physicality, national television, Charles Barkley, and some record fighting in the East; this should be an exciting one to watch. Let the pre-game hype begin.
We The North.
PS – song to get you ready for tonight: