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Reply To: NBA • Monday Service Plays • 3/14/16

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Preview: Chicago At Toronto

When: 7:30 PM ET, Monday, March 14, 2016
Where: Air Canada Centre, Toronto, Ontario

The Toronto Raptors have prevented a pair of Eastern Conference opponents from moving up in the standings in the last two games and will try to make it three straight when they host the Chicago Bulls. The Raptors knocked off the Atlanta Hawks and Miami Heat and will try to cap off a seven-game homestand with their sixth win in the stretch on Monday.

Toronto is inching up on the Cleveland Cavaliers for the top spot in the East and needs to take advantage of this home-heavy portion of the schedule before playing 10 of its final 17 games on the road. DeMar DeRozan made sure the Raptors would not fall on Saturday, when he matched a season high with 38 points in a 112-104 overtime triumph over the Heat. The Bulls could not find their way around that same Miami squad in a 118-96 setback on Friday and have dropped six of the last eight to fall one game behind the eighth-place Detroit Pistons in the East. Chicago’s depleted roster added point guard Derrick Rose (groin) to the injury list on Friday and hopes to have both Rose and All-Star guard Jimmy Butler (knee) back on Monday.

TV: 7:30 p.m. ET, CSN Chicago, Sportsnet One (Toronto)

ABOUT THE BULLS (32-32): Butler has missed 14 of the last 15 games due to problems with his left knee but had another MRI exam come back clean on Friday and is working his way back. Justin Holiday and E’Twaun Moore made up the starting backcourt on Friday and combined for 20 points but Chicago did not have enough offensive firepower to keep up with the Heat and was outscored 64-38 in the second half. The most consistent performer continues to be center Pau Gasol, who is averaging 19.5 points, 14.5 rebounds and eight assists over the last four games.

ABOUT THE RAPTORS (44-20): DeRozan is averaging 30.2 points through the first six games of the homestand and scored seven of his 38 on Saturday in overtime, but his coach was busy praising his defensive job on Miami guard Joe Johnson. “That’s a man’s work – his defensive effort,” Casey told reporters. “If he comes down and gives easy buckets away, at the end it’s worthless. But he came down and did a man’s job on the other end, defensively, which is huge. He did it (Saturday) on both ends of the floor.” DeRozan was limited to 22 points on 6-of-21 shooting in a 116-106 loss at Chicago on Feb. 19.

BUZZER BEATERS

1. Bulls G Aaron Brooks (knee) logged 21 minutes off the bench on Friday after sitting out two of the previous three games.

2. Raptors C Jonas Valanciunas recorded a double-double in four of the last five games.

3. Chicago has taken each of the first three meetings this season, including a 115-113 triumph at Toronto on Jan. 3.

PREDICTION: Raptors 102, Bulls 89