Title: Raptors use Bulls as lab test for Ibaka-Gasol frontcourt, and other takeaways from another blowout
Date: March 30, 2019
Original Source: The Athletic
Synopsis: In my latest for The Athletic Toronto, I wrote about the shorthanded Raptors using another blowout against the Bulls to experiment with a lineup they may need later.
If nothing else, a woefully uncompetitive week on the schedule allowed for some experimentation. Nick Nurse continued a season of tweaking in search of information — sometimes voluntary, sometimes less so — Saturday by starting Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol alongside each other, the team’s 22nd different starting lineup of the season.
It was a low-risk gamble. The Raptors were playing the Chicago Bulls for the second time in five days, they’re locked into the No. 2 spot in the Eastern Conference, they were down four regulars and they were still 10.5-point favorites against a thinned-out team. It’s the type of competitive environment that allows for some trial and error, or as it went down in a 124-101 victory, simply trial.
The desire to get a longer look at Ibaka and Gasol together wasn’t new, either — Nurse tried it Thursday, too, in a gigantic look with Pascal Siakam at small forward for a few minutes when their zone defence was prominent. Entering Saturday, the centre duo had played just 14 minutes together on the year. In that time, the defence had performed better than some might expect while it was the offence that had sputtered. This is not a look the Raptors figure to use incredibly often in the postseason, but with the Detroit Pistons standing as a potential first-round opponent and the Boston Celtics moving back to starting Al Horford and Aron Baynes together, it was decidedly worth a look.
That pairing received 13 more minutes of sample together here, outscoring the Bulls by seven in that time.