With the 2022-23 NBA regular season in the rearview mirror, the attention is now on the Play-In Tournament. One game that has the potential to be a thriller will happen on Wednesday between the Toronto Raptors and Chicago Bulls at the Scotiabank Arena in Canada.
The Raptors finished the regular season with a 41-41 record and with the No. 9 seed. This was seven fewer wins than they had in the 2021-22 season. After being 23-30 at one point in February, the team managed to bounce back to finish at .500.
On the other side of the matchup, the Bulls went 40-42 to secure the No. 10 seed and the final Play-In spot in the Eastern Conference. Chicago had six fewer wins compared to its previous season.
In the 2022-23 regular season, the Raptors won two out of the three contests between the organizations.
Still, this is a win-or-go-home situation. With so much at stake, both teams should come with extra motivation on Wednesday. This could create an NBA Finals-like atmosphere and make this game one for the ages.
With that being said, here are some reasons why the Toronto Raptors could beat the Chicago Bulls in the 2023 NBA Play-In Tournament.
*Watch NBA games LIVE with fuboTV (click for a free trial)*
3. Offensive rebounding and rim protection
Perhaps the biggest in-season acquisition for the Raptors in 2022-23 was Jakob Poeltl. The big man returned to the organization in a trade with the San Antonio Spurs and became a starter for Toronto.
In 26 games with the Raptors, Poeltl averaged 13.1 points while making 65.2% of his field goals. Most importantly, he grabbed 9.1 rebounds with 3.2 being offensive, and blocked 1.3 shots a night.
On Wednesday, rebounding could be something that sets the teams apart. Toronto recorded 12.7 offensive rebounds per game in the regular season, the second-best mark in the league. On the other hand, Chicago only had 8.5 per contest, which was the third-lowest among all teams.
Another thing that could help the Raptors is their rim protection, especially with Poeltl, Scottie Barnes, and Chris Boucher. Toronto blocked 5.2 shots per game in the regular season, good enough to place the team in the top 10 in the category.
With the duo defending the basket, DeMar DeRozan and Zach LaVine might avoid attacking the rim since they would face solid blockers there.
Should the Raptors, mainly Poeltl close to the rim, have a solid showing on defense and grab many offensive boards, they will be one step closer to advancing in the Play-In Tournament.
2. The Pascal Siakam-Fred VanVleet duo
As for the offensive side of the ball, the Raptors will need anything they can get from their veterans. While Barnes and Gary Trent Jr. could have their moments, both Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet will be playing major roles on Wednesday.
This season, Siakam recorded a career-high 24.2 points, 7.8 boards, and 5.8 assists plus 0.9 steals and 0.5 blocks per game. His shooting splits were 48% from the field, 32.4% from the 3-point line, and 77.4% from the charity stripe.
VanVleet scored 19.3 points with 7.2 assists but made less than 40% of his field goals. Still, it was enough to make him the second-leading scorer on the roster, just trailing Siakam.
What sets Siakam and VanVleet apart from their teammates and Chicago’s stars is the championship pedigree. The duo played a crucial role in Toronto’s 2018-19 title and are now the main players on the team with the departure of Kawhi Leonard and Kyle Lowry since that campaign.
Both Siakam and VanVleet have developed into All-Stars and could always be X-factors in big games. Because of that, they could be what gives the Raptors the edge over the Bulls on Wednesday.
1. Home-court advantage
At the end of the day, one important factor should give Toronto another advantage over Chicago even before the opening tip. The Raptors will open their Play-In Tournament journey at home, and it could be a determinant thing.
In their meetings in the regular season, the home team won in all three opportunities. That includes two Toronto wins at the Scotiabank Arena.
Most importantly, the Raptors performed significantly better at home than on the road in the regular season. The team went 27-14 when playing in Canada while it finished 14-27 in away games.
As for the Bulls, they went 18-23 on the road this season, including losing all their five away games in February. Some notable losses on the road came against non-playoff teams such as the San Antonio Spurs, Indiana Pacers, and Charlotte Hornets.
All things considered, especially what both teams presented in the regular season, the home-court advantage is the biggest reason why the Raptors could win this game. With fans on its side, Toronto should continue its hot streak at home and force a bad game by Chicago.
The post 3 reasons Raptors will beat Bulls in 2023 NBA Play-In Tournament appeared first on ClutchPoints.