If the Toronto Raptors have any hope of turning things around and making the playoffs this season, it's going to have to start on Thursday.
The days of eyeing a top-six seed in the Eastern Conference have long since past and the Raptors now are clawing just to get into the play-in tournament. In order to do that, they're probably going to have to jump the 21-18 Chicago Bulls who Toronto will face on Thursday night.
"It’s a big one," Raptors coach Nick Nurse said. "I think we got a couple big ones this week against teams right around us, Chicago and Cleveland."
Chicago is only two games ahead of Toronto and somehow despite all that's gone wrong for the Raptors this year, that faint hope for playoff basketball still flickers in the distance.
"I feel like if we get ourselves some good wins in a row, we're kind of right back out in the [playoff] conversation," Pascal Siakam said. "We feel like no matter what, with guys that have been in the playoffs, being out there with any team, we can fight and get a win."
Unfortunately for the Raptors, Vegas sportsbooks aren't liking their chances on Thursday. The Bulls are four-point favourites, according to Covers, and have about a 64% chance of winning the game.
Things should be made a little easier for Chicago considering the Raptors will once again be without Kyle Lowry, Fred VanVleet, Rodney Hood, Jalen Harris, Patrick McCaw, and Paul Watson Jr. The Bulls, conversely, should have their top players all healthy, having listed both Zach LaVine and Lauri Markkanen as probable for Thursday.