Bulls look for fourth straight road win

Bulls look for fourth straight road win
January 16, 2013, 4:44 pm
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The Bulls more resolved their struggles at home with a franchise record-setting performance, and they'll now have a chance to tie their longest road winning streak of the season when they take on the Raptors tonight on Comcast SportsNet.
After losing two straight inside the United Center, the Bulls' defense made sure not to make it three, allowing just 58 points in a 39-point blowout win over the Hawks on Monday. It was the fewest points allowed by Chicago in franchise history, and the Bulls grabbed an incredible 59 rebounds -- including 29 from Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah -- in the win.
Tom Thibodeau's group surprisingly has had less to prove on the road in 2012-'13, picking up wins in 10 of 15 tries thus far. That 10-5 mark is tops in the East, and behind only Oklahoma City (12-5) and the Los Angeles Clippers (11-5) for NBA road supremacy.
And while tonight's opponent, the 14-23 Raptors, don't seem like much of a test on paper, their 10-8 home record has paced them. It's never easy for teams to cross the border to play one game and come right home, as two of those losses have come in overtime, and just two others have been by double-digits. The Raptors will be comfortable, too, having played six straight home games to start 2013 before a matchup last night in Brooklyn, which they lost 113-106.
And with former No. 1 overall pick Andrea Bargnani and 2011 first round pick Jonas Valanciunas out, Toronto -- much like Chicago -- is relying on their pair of bigs to hold down the defense in the frontcourt. Ed Davis is averaging 13.6 points and 8.4 rebounds in 33 minutes in January, while fill-in center Amir Johnson has gone for 15.0 points and 8.1 rebounds in 31 minutes a night since the calendar flipped to 2013.
At the beginning of the year, the pair of lanky 6-foot-10 forwards were expected to spell each other, but have been forced into more significant roles and minutes and have answered the bell. The Raptors are just a marginal rebounding team, but have improved since Davis and Johnson saw an uptick in minutes. Depth is thin in the frontcourt -- they have Aaron Gray and Quincy Acy behind those two -- but they're playing well inside.
But those two aren't the only successful duo in the Raptors' rotation. Point guards Kyle Lowry and Jose Calderon also have formed a pairing, in the backcourt, that has the Raptors still in contention for the No. 8 seed in the East -- currently they sit 5.5 games back.
Lowry was the major addition to the Toronto roster this offseason, and he exploded out of the gates, averaging 23.6 points, 7.3 rebounds and 7.0 assists through the first three games. But a right ankle sprain cost him six games in November, and a right shoulder injury midway through December kept him out of action for seven more.
His numbers have been solid -- 13.8 points, 4.6 rebounds, 6.0 assists -- but since he returned from his shoulder injury, he's been relegated to the bench in favor of Calderon. The seventh year veteran has long been considered one of the more underrated point guards in the league, and he thrived when Lowry was shelved with his respective injuries. In 22 starts this year, he's averaging 12.4 points and 10.2 assists. Off the bench (15 games), his numbers dip to 8.1 points and 4.2 assists.
Lowry is capable of playing the "two-guard," and both have seen time on the court together, but the two-headed attack of Lowry and Calderon has helped an otherwise average offense.
The two are questionable for tonight's affair, as Lowry suffered a sprained left ankle early against the Nets (that he played through), and Calderon suffered a hip injury he also did not come out for. The two are game-time decisions tonight, and if they cannot go former Bulls point guard John Lucas III would get the start. The offensive spark has averaged 4.2 points and 1.7 assists in 11 minutes per game.
See if the Bulls can continue their impressive play away from the United Center and pick up a win out of the country tonight on Comcast SportsNet.