Following this contest against a Chicago team which has the league’s second-worst record, Toronto plays four straight against some of the NBA’s top competition.
The Raptors host the NBA defending champion San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday before sandwiching two games against the Atlantic Division-leading New Jersey Nets between a matchup with the Sacramento Kings, owners of the league’s best record.
This is Toronto’s first game since going into the break with a 94-74 loss at Seattle to fall one game below .500. It was the team’s most lopsided defeat since Dec. 15.
This is the second meeting between these teams since the Dec. 1 trade that saw the Raptors send Antonio Davis, Jerome Williams and Chris Jeffries to the Bulls for Jalen Rose, Donyell Marshall and Lonny Baxter.
Despite being a game below .500 (17-18) since that deal and Rose being out indefinitely following hand surgery last Tuesday, the Raptors are in position to make the playoffs. They stand sixth in the Eastern Conference, two games behind Milwaukee for fifth and 1 1/2 ahead of seventh-place New York.
“For us if we can win 40 or so games, I think we have a chance to make the playoffs,” Toronto coach Kevin O’Neill said. “It’s whether we can do that or not. Our goal is to get into the playoffs indeed, but whether we can do that or not, I’m not sure.”
The Bulls are 11-26 since the trade, though they went into the break showing promise in Thursday’s 107-87 victory over the Boston Celtics.
It may have been the best game of the season for Chicago’s young backcourt. Rookie Kirk Hinrich scored 27 points and set a season high with 14 assists, and Jamal Crawford had 27 points with seven assists as the Bulls notched their easiest win of the season.
“We fed off each other,” Crawford said. “Kirk had it going. I just tried to play off him. We had it going together. I think it opened up stuff for everybody else.”