Zach LaVine scored 39 points, DeMar DeRozan had 23 against his former team and the Chicago Bulls would keep their season alive by coming back from a 19-point deficit to beat the Toronto Raptors, 109-105, in a play-in tournament game Wednesday night.
Nikola Vucevic had 14 points and 13 rebounds for the Bulls, a Chicago team that trailed 66-47 in the third quarter before LaVine would explode with 30 points in the second half and lead the comeback rally. He would score 17 points in the third quarter as the Bulls cut the deficit to nine, then followed that with 13 more in the final quarter to help Chicago advance.
“His performance was extraordinary. It gave us life and it gave us hope,” Bulls coach Billy Donovan said.
Chicago will visit the Miami Heat on Friday night for an opportunity to earn the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference playoff bracket, and a first-round playoff matchup with Giannis Antetokounmpo and the top-seed Milwaukee Bucks.
The Bulls recorded a perfect record against the Heat during their regular season series. Chicago won in Miami’s own arena twice, including the opening night of the 2022-2023 season and they defeated Miami when they hosted them in Chicago.
“They’re going to make adjustments. We are, too. It’s going to be whoever wants it more. I think it comes down to that,” Zach LaVine said.
LaVine and the Bulls trailed 81-72 heading into a decisive fourth quarter that was marred by traded blows until the very end.
Chicago’s Alex Caruso drained a shot from the corner to tie the score at 91 with just over seven minutes left in regulation. Patrick Beverley’s three-pointer with five minutes remaining gave the Bulls a 96-93 lead.
Fred VanVleet’s three-pointer with 3:11 remaining would tie the game back up at 100 for Raptors, but Zach LaVine and DeMar DeRozan would respond with baskets for the Bulls.
Scottie Barnes and Pascal Siakam each made one of two attempts at the free throw line inside the final two minutes, and VanVleet missed a three that would have tied the game once again for Toronto.
Siakam’s driving slam with 19 seconds left would cut the Raptors deficit to within one. After a timeout, Zach LaVine extended the lead to three for Chicago with a pair of free throws. Alex Caruso would foul Siakam on an attempted three-pointer but the Raptors star missed two of his three attempts at the foul line, subsequently sealing the victory for the Bulls.
“I thought we played well enough to win tonight but it just didn’t go our way,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said.
Pascal Siakam scored 32 points and Fred Vanvleet added 26 points and 12 rebounds, but Toronto’s season ended in upsetting fashion as the Raptors shot an awful 18-for-36 at the free throw line on Wednesday night.
“We’re going to have to be better, not consistent enough and that’s got to change,” said Pascal Siakam.
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