With the Lakers struggling, Lonzo Ball and his Magic Johnson-led squad have had a tough couple of weeks. The Boston Celtics are back on top in the East with star Kyrie Irving joining Gordon Hayward and company following their major trade for Isaiah Thomas.

The “where are the raptors playing” is a question that has been asked for a while. The Toronto Raptors have won their first two games of the season but the win over the Lakers was hard to savor given how poorly Lonzo Ball played.

Huge Win Over Raptors Hard to Savor Given Brutal Lonzo Ball Setback

On Monday inside the United Center, the Chicago Bulls had plenty of reasons to rejoice.

With a 113-99 victory over the Toronto Raptors, head coach Billy Donovan’s squad snapped a three-game losing run. Patrick Williams, a second-year forward, returned to the lineup looking healthy and at ease. Alex Caruso boosted the starting lineup, and Donovan has made AC a long-term backcourt starter.

Lonzo Ball, unfortunately for the Bulls, hasn’t been a part of the team’s recent success. On Monday, he also unwittingly ruined Chicago’s good mood.

After having surgery in January to repair a torn meniscus, Ball has been working his way back. Initially, it was thought that his recuperation would take six to eight weeks. His knee, on the other hand, hasn’t reacted to jogging, which has prolonged the situation.

Bulls supporters must be prepared for the chance that Ball may miss the whole season.

Lonzo Ball’s injury woes haven’t stopped.

According to Donovan, Lonzo Ball will stop jogging for ten days and work on strengthening his knee.

— K.C. Johnson (@KCJHoop) March 21, 2022

Ball has yet to proceed to sprints, according to Donovan, who said last week that a bone bruise was the main reason. Zo will not be cleared until he can run at full speed.

Now, there’s no way of knowing when that will happen.

Donovan told reporters before Monday’s game (h/t K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago) that Ball will put a brief stop to his running exercises in an effort to strengthen the injured knee. The Bulls head coach stated that his starting point guard feels discomfort when he attempts to increase speeds during his running program.

Although Donovan said that moving Ball off the field was not a setback, it certainly seems like one.

Ball will not play again until April, at the earliest, since he is taking a 10-day break from jogging. The Bulls will only have five games left at that time, including a back-to-back. Ball’s status for the start of the playoffs and beyond might be jeopardized if the knee doesn’t react well to the strengthening.

The Bulls will find it difficult to accept the news. The timing was also unfortunate, as Chicago was supposed to be celebrating one of its best performances in a long time.

The Bulls’ huge triumph against the Raptors has been tainted by recent developments.

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During Monday’s triumph against the Raptors, the Bulls restored their identity.

Chicago took care of the rock, which had been a problem for the offense in prior defeats. The Bulls, on the other hand, scored 29 points off of 12 Raptors turnovers. With 11 points and six assists, Ayo Dosunmu boosted the second unit. Meanwhile, Zach LaVine was a force on the break, scoring 26 points on 9-of-18 shooting with six assists and six rebounds. His 16 points in the third quarter gave the Bulls the upper hand.

More significantly, Chicago adjusted their defense. Nikola Vucevic struck a better mix between showing on screens and keeping connected to his assignment after being thrashed in pick-and-roll in the second quarter. Toronto’s guards were harried off the three-point line by the Bulls’ guards, forcing a slew of contested shots.

The victory should provide Chicago a boost as it prepares for the second part of a back-to-back at Milwaukee on Tuesday. Ball’s failed rehabilitation attempts, on the other hand, are a bitter pill to chew.

Even with Alex Caruso back in the game, the Bulls have struggled to protect and force mistakes despite Monday’s defensive gains. Ball’s playmaking and catch-and-shoot ability would greatly benefit the team if he were to be added to the rotation. With Javonte Green moving from the starting five to the second unit, his return would make the squad deeper and more flexible.

But it’s impossible to say when or if Ball will return. The Bulls must prepare for the worst-case scenario, which means everyone else must step up their game.

Will the Bulls be able to make it through the playoffs without Ball?

Chicago Bulls point guard Lonzo Ball looks on before a game against the Brooklyn Nets in January 2022

Chicago Bulls point guard Lonzo Ball looks on before a game against the Brooklyn Nets in January 2022 On January 12, 2022, Lonzo Ball stands during the National Anthem before a game against the Brooklyn Nets | Stacy Revere/Getty Images

Because of the nature of Lonzo Ball’s injury and recuperation, he may not be ready for the playoffs.

Can the Bulls still win the Eastern Conference if they go into the playoffs without their main point guard? It is improbable unless the rest of the roster quickly improves in quality.

Given his knee troubles, LaVine’s third-quarter explosion and attacking approach are both intrinsic positives — despite shooting 1-of-7 from the field, he had 12 free-throw attempts in a defeat to the Phoenix Suns. He has to become a more consistent threat, especially now that opponents are sending doubles at DeMar DeRozan. As he continues to acclimatize to game tempo and feel more comfortable on the court, Patrick Williams’ return might be crucial.

But Vucevic is most likely the most important X-factor.

This season, the All-Star center has become a reluctant defensive pillar. On screens and at the point of attack, where players like Ball and Caruso thrive as defenders, he’s had trouble supporting Chicago’s guards. On switches, Vooch can be sluggish laterally, with guards and wings snatching him off the dribble and slamming him into the lane.

The Bulls must improve their overall team defense. But it all begins with Vucevic’s ability to read the game better and establish better positions.

If Chicago had gotten more encouraging news about Ball’s rehabilitation, it would be far more optimistic about its playoff prospects. However, the Bulls must prepare for life without him, which will need the greatest performance from the rest of the team.

Unless otherwise stated, all stats are courtesy of Basketball Reference.

RELATED: Ayo Dosunmu on the Verge of Making Spectacular Bulls History

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