We’re throwing it back to the 2019 Finals tonight and trusting Fred VanVleet to bring the new dad energy — find out how in our NBA betting picks for the Bulls vs. Raptors.
Watch out, opposing NBA teams, Fred VanVleet is a new dad again and is back in the Toronto Raptors lineup. The last time Steady Freddy became a dad, it was during the Raptors’ 2019 championship run, and he went from a distracted-dad-to-be to going absolutely nuclear in helping his team secure its first title.
So, that’s what the Chicago Bulls get to look forward to when they travel to Toronto tonight. Despite entering this matchup as winners of consecutive ball games, the Bulls have had their issues on the road this season.
Can Freddy get the newest member of his family a win and cover in his return to the court? I break down this Eastern Conference clash and bring you my best bet in my NBA picks and predictions for the Bulls vs. Raptors.
Bulls vs Raptors best odds
Bulls vs Raptors picks and predictions
If you can’t recall what happened in the Raptors‘ 2019 playoff run, let me refresh your memory.
Fred VanVleet, the Raptors’ backup point guard at the time, was eagerly awaiting the birth of his second child, but it certainly appeared to be weighing on him. VanVleet was averaging just four points on 19.5% shooting from 3-point range through the first two-and-a-half rounds of the playoffs.
Then his son was born. Over the Raptors’ final nine playoff games, he averaged 14.7 points on 52.6% shooting from beyond the arc, helping Toronto secure its first NBA title.
Tonight, Steady Freddy returns after missing three games for the birth of his third child as his team looks to continue its playoff push. And, fun motivating narratives aside, VanVleet was shooting the ball well before his parental leave and should be a tough matchup tonight for the Bulls.
VanVleet spent much of the first half of the season in a shooting slump but he has really found his rhythm in the second half. VanVleet was shooting a solid 38.3% from 3-point range on a big 9.3 attempts per contest over his previous 15 games.
Tonight, he should let it fly against a Bulls team that struggles on the road and even though Chicago’s defense is underrated, it has some issues defending the perimeter. The Bulls allow the fifth-most 3-point attempts and sixth-most made 3-pointers per game.
VanVleet also lit up the Bulls this season, going 5-for-13 and 6-for-10 from downtown in their two prior meetings back in November.
This combination of VanVleet getting a mental lift from the birth of his child, his current form, and the matchup has me targeting his alternate made threes prop.
You can get Freddy to hit four or more threes at +185 — an implied probability of 37.5% — but he’s hit four or more threes eight times in his last 15 games and in both matchups against the Bulls this season.
Let’s ride with the Raps’ new dad.
My best bet: Fred VanVleet 4+ made threes (+185 at bet365)
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Bulls vs Raptors spread analysis
The Raptors and Bulls are jockeying for position at the bottom of the Eastern Conference play-in standings. The Raps are currently in ninth and are just a game and a half ahead of the Bulls who sit in 11th. So, this game has meaning for both teams.
The Bulls enter this matchup winners of two in a row, notching wins over the Nets and the Wizards. As has been the case all season, they pulled out those wins thanks to a sneaky good defense.
Chicago ranks sixth in the NBA in defensive rating and ninth in opponent field goal percentage. But, while its defense seems to travel, the offense doesn’t. Chicago ranks 21st in offensive rating and 19th in scoring offense when playing away from home.
As a result, the Bulls are 10-20 straight up and 13-16-1 against the spread on the road this season, including 1-6 ATS in their last seven road games overall.
So, the question becomes, will the Bulls have enough offense to keep up with a rejuvenated Raptors team and cover the 5-point spread?
Sunday’s loss to the Cavaliers notwithstanding (they were playing the second half of a back-to-back without their starting point guard) the Raptors have looked like a more complete bunch since acquiring Jakob Poeltl at the trade deadline.
Toronto is 4-2 SU since the trade deadline and is putting up 119.3 points per game in the three games both VanVleet and Poeltl have suited up in.
The Raptors have also been a solid team at home, going 19-13 SU and 18-14 ATS. That said, they have struggled as mid-range favorites this season. When favored between 5 and 9.5 points this year the Raps are just 5-10 ATS.
Despite the trends looking a little in Toronto’s favor in this spot, the Raps’ inconsistencies this season combined with the Bulls’ strong defense would have me looking at the underdog or staying away from the spread entirely.
Bulls vs Raptors Over/Under analysis
The total for this Eastern Conference clash is a little more interesting. It hit the board at 219 and has been bet up slightly to 220 as of Tuesday afternoon, but these teams might be hard-pressed to get there.
As noted, Chicago plays well at the defensive end of the floor and ranks 12th in scoring defense, allowing 112.4 points per game. It faces a Raptors team that is improving but still struggles in the halfcourt and ranks 29th in effective field goal percentage.
Toronto, meanwhile, was supposed to be a team that was known for its defense but that hasn’t exactly been the case this season. With Poeltl manning the middle, however, the Raps now have some rim protection and additional depth, and tonight, they face a Bulls team that ranks 24th in offensive efficiency.
The Bulls and Raptors also rank 14th and 25th respectively when it comes to pace of play and we saw them play a slower grind-it-out style in their two previous meetings this season. Both would have fallen below this number tonight.
I expect this to be a tightly contested contest, and I see some value in the Under.
Bulls vs Raptors betting trend to know
The Under is 8-2 in the Bulls’ last 10 road games and is 7-3 in the Raptors’ last 10 vs. a team with a losing straight-up record. Find more NBA betting trends for Bulls vs. Raptors.
Bulls vs Raptors game info
|Location:||Scotiabank Arena, Toronto, ON|
|Date:||Tuesday, February 28, 2023|
|Tip-off:||7:30 p.m. ET|