There’s an excellent chance the Raptors won’t get an invitation to the official NBA post-season party.
But when they play host to the Chicago Bulls on Sunday night at the Air Canada Centre, they’re going to pretend they have their foot in the door.
“You have to approach it like it is a playoff game,” forward Amir Johnson said after what’s left of the injury-ravaged Raps practised on Saturday afternoon.
“We have to bring it. I know it’s going to be a fight. Both teams are hungry to get to the playoffs.”
Raptors head coach Jay Triano, already without all-star forward Chris Bosh, probably won’t have Antoine Wright at his disposal. Wright suffered a sprained left ankle on Friday night in Atlanta against the Hawks and Triano said he doubted Wright would be available against Chicago.
The Raptors and Bulls are tied for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, and the Bulls missed a giant opportunity to put the Raptors in a hole when they lost in double overtime to the New Jersey Nets on Friday night. Both Toronto and Chicago have three games remaining, and the Raptors would get the final seed if the teams are tied, given their 2-0 season series lead. Of course, the reward for squeaking into the playoffs likely would be a four-game sweep of domination at the hands of LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Triano, loathe to say anything that could be construed as bulletin-board material, didn’t put much stock in the suggestion the Raptors have an advantage because they haven’t lost to the Bulls in 2009-10. The Raptors will have enough of a challenge on the boards, as the Bulls are the top rebounding team in the NBA.
“I would not say it is a huge confidence factor,” Triano said. “It happened so far in the past (the previous meeting was Dec. 5) and so much has happened since then.”
The Raptors were on their team bus heading to the airport in Atlanta late Friday night when they learned of the Bulls’ loss to New Jersey.
“We were the Nets’ biggest fans,” said DeMar DeRozan, who will face an old college roommate, the Bulls’ Taj Gibson, in the biggest game of the season. “It’s crazy because a lot of stuff is not going our way, but a lot of stuff is (such as the most recent Bulls loss). We have to take advantage of the stuff that is going our way.
“We have a lot of people down, but we have to find a way to pull it out.”