TORONTO, ONT – Zach LaVine scored 39 points, DeMar DeRozan had 23 against his former team and the Chicago Bulls overcame 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, who trailed 66-47 in the third quarter before LaVine carried them back. He scored 17 points in the third as Chicago cut the gap to nine, then added 13 more in the fourth to help the Bulls advance.
Bulls coach Billy Donovan said LaVine was “phenomenal” against the Raptors.
“His performance was extraordinary,” Donovan said. “It gave us life and it gave us hope.”
The Bulls will visit the Miami Heat on Friday night for the chance to earn the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference playoff bracket, and a first-round playoff matchup with Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks.
Chicago went 3-0 against the Heat this season. The Bulls won in Miami twice, including on opening night.
“They’re going to make adjustments. We are, too,” LaVine said. “It’s going to be whoever wants it more. I think it comes down to that.”
The Bulls shot 3 for 19 from 3-point range through the first three quarters but LaVine connected twice as Chicago made four of seven from distance in the fourth.
Fred VanVleet had 26 points and 12 rebounds and Pascal Siakam scored 32 points, but Toronto’s season ended in disappointment as the Raptors — with DeRozan’s nine-year-old daughter, Diar, screaming when they shot — went a dismal 18 for 36 at the free throw line. Toronto missed six attempts from the line in the fourth quarter.
“I thought we played well enough to win tonight but it just didn’t go our way,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said.
Scottie Barnes had 19 points and 10 rebounds for the Raptors, and O.G. Anunoby scored 13 points. Toronto didn’t win three straight until January and never won more than four in a row in a season that struggled to generate any momentum.
“We’re going to have to be better,” Siakam said. “Not consistent enough and that’s got to change.”
Chicago’s Alex Caruso connected from the corner to tie the score at 91-all with 7:08 left in the fourth quarter and Patrick Beverley’s 3 with 5:07 remaining gave the Bulls a 96-93 lead. It was Beverley’s first basket of the game.
VanVleet’s 3 with 3:11 to go knotted it again at 100-all, but LaVine and DeRozan replied with baskets for the Bulls.
Barnes and Siakam each made one of two at the line inside the final two minutes, and VanVleet missed a 3 that would have tied the game.
Siakam’s driving dunk with 19 seconds left cut it to 105-104. After a timeout, LaVine pushed the lead to three with a pair of free throws. Caruso fouled Siakam on a 3 but the Raptors star missed his second and third attempts.
The Raptors led 28-23 after one and 58-47 at the break after VanVleet connected on a halfcourt heave at the halftime buzzer.
VanVleet’s 3 with 9:09 left in the third gave Toronto a 19-point edge, but LaVine and the Bulls trailed 81-72 heading to the fourth.
DOING IT FOR DAD
After talking her dad into skipping a day of school to attend the game, DeRozan’s daughter sat in a courtside seat adjacent to the Chicago bench.
“I just saw it,” DeRozan said of Diar’s screams. “She went viral.”
Toronto was 8 for 14 at the line in the opening half.
DeRozan said he’s sending Diar back to school, meaning she won’t be at Friday’s game against the Heat.
SHOWING HIS COLORS
Former NBA All-Star Charles Oakley, who played for both the Bulls and Raptors, sat in a courtside seat. Oakley wore a black hoodie with Toronto Raptors printed in gold letters on the back.
Bulls: LaVine shot 13 for 15 at the free throw line. The Bulls went 18 for 22. … Patrick Williams scored 10 points.
Raptors: VanVleet had eight assists. … Siakam had nine rebounds.
AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports