LaVine spearheads rally as Bulls end Raptors' NBA playoff hopes

Agence France-Presse
LaVine spearheads rally as Bulls end Raptors' NBA playoff hopes
Zach LaVine of the Chicago Bulls shoots against O.G. Anunoby of the Toronto Raptors during the 2023 Play-In Tournament at the Scotiabank Arena on April 12, 2023 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Andrew Lahodynskyj / Getty Images / AFP

LOS ANGELES – Zach LaVine led a second-half fightback as the Chicago Bulls eliminated the Toronto Raptors from the NBA's play-in tournament on Wednesday (Thursday, Manila time).

LaVine finished with 39 points — 30 of them scored after halftime — in a 109-105 road victory for the Bulls, who will now face Miami on Friday with the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs up for grabs.

LaVine and former Toronto star DeMar DeRozan showed superb composure down the stretch as Chicago fought back from a 19-point third-quarter deficit to snatch a win that left Toronto's Scotiabank Arena in stunned silence.

DeRozan finished with 23 points while Nikola Vucevic finished with 14 points, 13 rebounds and four assists. Patrick Williams also chipped in with 10 points off the bench.

Toronto, who looked to be in complete control for long periods of the game as Chicago struggled to find their offensive and defensive rhythm, were left ruing a litany of missed free throws.

The Raptors shot only 18-of-36 from the foul line, a 50% success rate that was in stark contrast to the Bulls, who made 18 of their 22 free throws.

Pascal Siakam (32 points) and Fred VanVleet (26) were both outstanding for Toronto, with VanVleet electrifying the home crowd with a buzzer-beating 3-pointer from near half-way as the second quarter ended.

That gave Toronto a 58-47 lead at halftime, and the Raptors kept up their scoring momentum early in the second half, extending their lead to 19 points as Chicago's offense sputtered.

But the pendulum swung back in the visitors' favor once LaVine found his range, and as Chicago's defensive fine-tuning stifled the Raptors, the Bulls began to steadily whittle away the deficit.

A Pat Beverley 3-pointer put Chicago ahead for the first time in the second half at 98-95 and Toronto were never able to get back in front thereafter.

Toronto were thrown a lifeline with 12 seconds remaining when a contentious foul call went their way with the Bulls leading 107-104. 

But Siakam missed two of his three shots from the foul line, before Vucevic won a foul and nervelessly drained his two free-throws to seal the win.

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