When the Chicago Bulls (11-2) host the Toronto Raptors (4-8) on Saturday night at the United Center, they will be hoping to keep a perfect record at home. Only the Philadelphia 76ers (5-0), Indiana Pacers (4-0), Milwaukee Bucks (4-0) and San Antonio Spurs (8-0) join the Bulls as undefeated at home, and their dominance at the UC has served them well so far this season. The Raptors are not a great team by any means, but like any NBA team they are dangerous enough to put the streak in jeopardy.
The Raptors' two best players are DeMar DeRozan and Andrea Bargnani. DeRozan has struggled shooting the ball so far this season, hitting only 42.2 percent of his field goals, but he attacks the rim well and draws fouls. The former USC Trojan is averaging 14.8 points per game. Meanwhile, former No. 1 overall draft pick Andrea Bargnani may have finally taken the step to raise his level of play on the defensive end. His scoring abilities are unquestioned, and he leads the team with 22.3 points per game, but now he has raised his rebounding average to a mildly respectable 6.5 boards per contest. Unfortunately for the Raptors, their big man is day-to-day with a strained calf and missed the team's loss on Friday night against the Indiana Pacers. Canadian newspaper The National Post aught an extremely entertaining call-and-response between guard Leandro Barbosa and head coach Dwane Casey regarding the severity of the injury, so make your own call on who you believe:
Raptors guard Leandro Barbosa
"His situation right now is very sad, and he's sad about it, that he's not on us for the court for a couple weeks."
Raptors Head Coach Dwane Casey
"I'm glad he's got his medical degree. I'm sure it's from Sao Paolo University. I haven't heard that. It's news to me. Right now [Bargnani] is day-to-day. Doctors haven't had the chance to analyze the MRI yet. He probably won't go [Friday night]. After that he's going to be day-to-day."
As for the Bulls, they got Derrick Rose back on Friday and took the national stage against the Boston Celtics, where some very good things happened. Solid performances from Rose and Luol Deng buoyed the offense in thr 88-79 win, but the struggling Joakim Noah finally put together a strong performance to lead the defensive unit. SB Nation's Bulls blog, Blog a Bull, explains:
Luol Deng (21 points on 8-for-17, 2-for-4 on 3s, 16 rebounds) and Derrick Rose (25 points on 9-for-21, seven assists) lit up the box score, but nothing lit up the eyes like Joakim Noah (ten points, 12 rebounds, four blocks), who played a season-high 38:41 after almost two weeks of inconsistent endgame playing time.
The Bulls held Boston to only 32 points in the paint and 13 FTAs on a night where Noah's feet were active, he attacked loose balls and challenged shots, but remained foul-less and chugging up and down the court. It was a night where he showed early he was someone on whom Tom Thibodeau could depend in the Bulls' ninth game in 13 days, against a regarded powerhouse in the league over the previous three seasons.
Game day/time: Saturday, Jan. 14, 2012, 7:00 p.m. CT
Location: United Center, Chicago, IL
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