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Raptors Insider Lookahead: April 7th-13th

Click here to access the previous week’s lookahead.

My fellow writer Hugh McLarty put up a decent stat line last week, going a modest two-of-four from the field on his predictions, finishing on a strong note by getting his last two right.

A new NBA week is upon us, and that means it’s time for more Raptor predictions! The team actually put together a small winning streak, thwomping the Golden State Warriors by 53 (!) points, and barely edging out the Washington Wizards on a game winner from Gary Trent Jr. They ended the week on a bit of a sour note, losing in blowout fashion to the LeBron-less Lakers.

Can the Raptors bounce back and look to capitalize on the tiny amount of momentum they had in the middle of last week? Let’s dig in!

Thursday, April 8th: vs. Chicago Bulls, 7:30PM (TSN)

The new-look Bulls are charging into Tampa looking for more. Chicago was one of the splashier teams at the trade deadline in which they acquired five new players, including All-Star Nikola Vucevic. Since the deadline, they lost four straight, but they have won their last two, including an impressive win over the Brooklyn Nets.

The last time these two met, the Bulls drubbed the Raptors 118-95, a night in which Chris Boucher and now-former-Raptor Norman Powell got absolutely no help on the offensive front. On the other end, it was rookie Patrick Williams who burned them, scoring 23 points on 9-of-14 shooting. The Raptors actually executed their gameplan well in taking the ball out of the hands of Chicago’s other All-Star, Zach LaVine. Chicago’s supporting cast simply stepped up and made the Raptors pay, shooting 45 percent from the field.

The Bulls are coming off a tough stretch, all against teams that would either be playoff or play-in seeds if the postseason began today. They are a much more interesting team now, as they have a lot more firepower, and unfortunately for the undermanned Raptors, it may play out as the same story with limited options to defend.

Prediction: Raptors open the stretch 0-1

Player to Watch: Daniel Theis

Yes, he’s here to annoy the Raptors once again, but this time on a new team. Theis gave the Raptors fits on the offensive glass in the 2020 playoffs when he was with the Boston Celtics, and no matter who the Raptors bring off the bench on Thursday, they will have their hands full.

Theis is more mobile than Aron Baynes, and he is stronger than Chris Boucher, meaning he poses a serious matchup problem for whoever is spared having to defend Vucevic. The Raptors should go with Boucher off the bench here to pull Theis out to the perimeter and keep him off the glass, but they will have a tough time either way.

Saturday, April 10th: at Cleveland Cavaliers, 7:30PM (Sportsnet)

Down both of their starting guards for Saturday’s rematch with Collin Sexton and the Cavaliers, the Raptors could be looking at trouble.

Sexton absolutely lit them up last time out, dropping 36 points on the Raptors in a 116-105 victory. He got into a dust-up with Fred VanVleet in the second quarter of that game, before going on a one-man rampage and never looking back.

On the whole, the Cavaliers are reeling and I actually think the Raptors will be able to bounce back from their past effort. Rookie Malachi Flynn has been impressive defensively, and if we’re still in the experiment of starting DeAndre’ Bembry at point guard at this point in time, it actually presents a tough matchup.

Prediction: Dinosaur team gets a W to get to 1-1

Player to Watch: Dwyane – oops, I mean Dean Wade

I had to do a double take last time these two teams played when I saw D-Wade playing for the Cavs. I thought maybe Flash came out of retirement, but no, it was Dean Wade who hit four triples to lead the Cavs off the bench last game. The Raptors will have to get a body out there to guard him, as that cannot happen again.

Sunday, April 11th: at New York Knicks, 8:00PM (Sportsnet)

How about those Knickerbockers, huh?

New York has been surprisingly sturdy this year, holding onto the eighth seed in the East and boasting a top five defensive rating. Julius Randle has taken another step for the Knicks this season and has practically become a walking triple-double. Mississauga native RJ Barrett has taken massive strides this year and is looking like a promising two-way player.

The Raptors and Knicks have only squared off once this year, the Raptors coming away with a 100-83 victory in the fourth game of the season. The Knicks shot 36 percent, with Randle and Barrett combining to go 9-of-31 from the field. If the Raptors want to have any sort of chance, they will have to repeat this formula and make New York’s tertiary players beat them.

Both teams have changed a lot since that first meeting three months ago, but the Knicks have improved and the Raptors have continued to be stuck in mud. Knowing the Raptors are undermanned, it seems they are looking at a tough game here.

Prediction: Knicks cruise to an easy win, Raptors go 1-2

Players to Watch: Obi Toppin and Immanuel Quickley

How fun have these two rookies been to watch? The high-flying Toppin and floater machine Quickley present a big problem for the Raptors off the bench, and the Raps will need to match their energy.

Toppin can beat the Raptors on the glass, and it will be a good test for Flynn to go up against Quickley, who was selected just four spots ahead of him in the 2020 NBA Draft. The Knicks are looking like a nice combination of young talent, and if these two continue to develop, they could be part of a really fun core for New York going forward.

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