Before we go any further, shout out to my girl Toya for the hookup on the great seats for Toronto vs Chicago (122 level, dead center). “You are blessed queen” (woke voice). Now let’s talk about why you should believe in The North aka the Raptors.
- The Best Bench in the Business: The Bulls were up 6 at the end of the first quarter. Dwane Casey started the 2nd quarter with 5 bench players (Fred Van Vleet, Delon Wright, Pascal Siakam, Jakob Poetl, and CJ Miles). The six point deficit turned into a twelve point lead by halfway through the quarter. They have shooters, guys who can handle, length to defend, and play together. Its almost like having 2 starting lineups which allows Kyle Lowry and Demar DeRozan to rest more
2. The Offense No Longer Offends. The days of DeRozan and Lowry taking turns pounding the ball into the floor are over. Their offense now features creative ball action, constant moving and cutting and much better pace and space. They are a nightmare to defend in the halfcourt
3. Old Dogs learning new tricks. Serge Ibaka and Jonas Valanciunas multiple times took the ball from the wing and drove to the paint on two dribble s and finished. They also ran “high-low” action. Ibaka is no longer in love with the 3 and Big Jo makes the mid-range enough where it has to be honored. Despite being veteran players, both have added to their game. DeRozan also has become a good passer in and makes better decisions
4. Chemistry and Engagement. The game was pretty much out of doubt about halfway through the 3rd quarter but that did not stop the bench from standing up and clapping for every charge taken or great pass. Even up 25, a bad call was met as if it cost them a game. Whoever was sitting was constantly engaged in the on court happenings.
Yes, it was the Chicago Bulls.. Yes, I have a bias having adopted the Raptors as my new favorite team. but this is not previous seasons where the post season flame-out was predictable. I firmly believe they are the best team in the East and if they can stay healthy, I am confidently picking them to be in the NBA Finals.