The Toronto Raptors travel to the Windy City on Monday night to take on Derrick Rose the middling Chicago Bulls as they look to rebound from a 111-118 loss to the Dallas Mavericks on Sunday. Things seem to be turning the corner for the Raptors on the injury front as it has been announced that starting centre Jonas Valanciunas will be in uniform for the first time in over a month. The good news came the day after starting forward Demarre Carroll returned to the line-up to help Toronto beat the Milwaukee Bucks. The game tips off at 8:00 PM/EST.
Cage’s Keys to the Game:
Rebounding as a Team Effort
The Chicago Bulls are currently the NBA’s number one ranked team in overall rebounding with 48.6 per game. Toronto, who in all fairness has been without their starting centre since November 20th, is tied for 14th place at 43.9 per game so in order to compete on the boards the Raptors need to get a high level of effort from more than just Bismack Biyombo.
Bring Jonas Along Slowly
Jonas Valanciunas will be making his return from his hand injury and it comes against one of the leagues best interior presences in Pau Gasol, Joakim Noah, and Taj Gibson. It is entirely reasonable to assume that Jonas will need a game or two to completely get his rhythm back, but it is also worth pointing out that as our best big man he deserves to be given the minutes necessary to play through the mistakes or late rotations that may occur.
Back Court Chemistry
This game pits two of the best Eastern Conference back courts against one another as Kyle Lowry and Demar DeRozan will go head to head with Jimmy Butler and whatever is left of Derrick Rose (shots kinda-sorta fired.) In order to pull out a win the Raptors will need both of their star guards to perform at the top of their games. With all four players being worthy of All-Star considerations, this should be an entertaining duel to keep an eye out for during the game.
X-Factor: Terrence Ross
The Toronto Raptors are a much stronger offensive threat when Terrence Ross is able to keep defences honest and effectively spread the floor with his jump shot. Over the past 5 games the sharpshooter has been averaging 16.2 points off the bench while shooting and impressive 48% from distance. This is the type of performance the team was expecting from him at the top of the season but I suppose it’s better late than never, right?