Toronto Raptors vs. Chicago Bulls Pick & Prediction JANUARY 18th 2024

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The Toronto Raptors will shoot for their second straight victory since trading All-Star Pascal Siakam when they host the Chicago Bulls on Thursday.

Siakam was dealt to the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday before the Raptors dominated the visiting Miami Heat 121-97.

In the deal, the Raptors received three first-round picks as well as Bruce Brown and Jordan Nwora. The New Orleans Pelicans also were involved in the trade, sending guard Kira Lewis Jr. to Toronto.

Center Christian Koloko, who has missed all of the season with a respiratory issue, was waived by Toronto in a corresponding move.

“I love him as a brother,” Toronto forward Scottie Barnes said of Siakam. “It hurts, but you’ve got to keep moving on, keep fighting.”

Raptors coach Darko Rajakovic said before the Miami game, “All of us, we are grown men, we signed up for this job, and we understand what this job brings. That doesn’t mean that we don’t have emotions. … Everybody’s going to process it differently.

“At the same time, we know that we have a job ahead of us, that we are here to play basketball games and that we are here to support each other.”

The Raptors responded brilliantly, leading the Heat by as many as 37 points on their way to a wire-to-wire win that snapped a four-game losing streak.

Gary Trent Jr. had 28 points, sinking eight 3-pointers, and RJ Barrett put up 26 points for the Raptors. Barnes added 20 points and eight assists.

Toronto shot 51.1 percent (45-for-88) from the field and 52.6 percent (20-for-38) from 3-point range.

“I wish nothing but the best for Siakam,” Trent said. “It should be a great thing for him. The player that he is, it doesn’t matter what organization he’s going to, he’s a high-level player, a high-level thinker.”

The Bulls have not played since taking a 109-91 road loss against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Monday, just their second defeat in six games.

Nikola Vucevic, who amassed 17 points, 10 rebounds and four assists at Cleveland, has been a positive force for the Bulls. Passing has become a bigger part of his game lately, sometimes making the pass that sets up others to get assists.

“We’ve been able to do more things where he’s kind of initiating actions from the elbows,” Bulls coach Billy Donovan said. “He likes a style for him offensively where he can do all those kinds of things. He can pick, he can pop, he can roll into the pocket, and he can kind of read those situations.

“I think he’s in a real good place. When Zach (LaVine) went down (with a right foot injury), I thought he really helped us with our ball movement, and he normally generates and does that for us.”

Vucevic is averaging 16.8 points and 10.4 points, making him one of just 13 NBA players in double figures in both categories. He also is contributing 3.4 assists per contest.

“There are many ways I can be useful for this team, not just scoring, but with my playmaking,” he said. “Using me as a guy that can make plays for others, whether it’s a flash, catch the ball and off-the-ball movement, rolls to the pockets, posts, whatever it is. I think it really helps our team. It’s not just me, I think everybody has been in a better place lately. You can see it. You can see it in the way we’re playing out there.

“Lately, I’m playing with more confidence and enjoying it more. Hopefully, it continues that way.”

–Field Level Media

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