Chicago Bulls head coach Billy Donovan looks on during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Miami Heat, Saturday, March 18, 2023, in Chicago. Chicago won 113-99. (AP Photo/Paul Beaty)

Bulls Complete Comeback vs. Raptors in Play-in

The Chicago Bulls defeated the Toronto Raptors Wednesday night 109-105 in the Eastern Conference play-in tournament. Chicago, who got the final spot in the tournament, overcame a 19-point deficit to take down the No. 9 Raptors.

Zach LaVine poured in 39 points for Chicago to lead all scorers. DeMar DeRozan added 23 points against his former team. Nikola Vucevic had 14 points and 13 rebounds as the Bulls knocked out Toronto.

Pascal Siakam led the Raptors with 32 points in the loss. Fred VanVleet also played well with 26 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists. The loss ends their season as they will miss the playoffs for the second time in the last three years.

In his third year as the Bulls’ head coach, former Gator coach Billy Donovan is trying to make the playoffs for the second year in a row. With the win, the Bulls will travel to Miami to take on the Heat Friday night. The winner of that will get the final spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs and will face off against the Milwaukee Bucks in the first round.

Raptors Dominate First Half

Toronto was in control for the entire first half. O.G. Anunoby started the scoring with a three-pointer on the Raptors’ first possession. They got off to a quick start with a 7-2 run to begin the game.

Later in the opening quarter, VanVleet capped off a 10-2 run for Toronto by scoring five straight points. He first knocked down a 27-foot bomb from long range and then broke down his defender with a crossover and put in an up-and-under layup at the rim.

The Raptors led 28-23 at the end of the first.

The second quarter started a little differently. Chicago began the frame with a quick 6-0 run. It was finished off by an Andre Drummond layup that gave the Bulls their first lead of the game at 29-28.

After this run, however, Toronto got back in the driver’s seat. They scored three straight baskets, including another long-ball from Anunoby.

With just 2.7 seconds left in the half, the Raptors were taking the ball out from the sideline in the backcourt. Scottie Barns passed it to VanVleet, who threw up a prayer from half-court that was answered. He knocked it down to give Toronto a 58-47 lead going into the second half.

Bulls Storm Back

The third quarter began the same way the first half went. An 8-0 run to start the half gave Toronto its largest advantage of the game at 19.

With under a minute to play in the third, LaVine made a pair of free throws that cut the Chicago deficit to single digits.

Heading into the fourth, the Bulls trailed 81-72.

After Toronto got the lead back up to 12 on two free throws from Precious Achiuwa, then Chicago began chipping away. In the next minute and a half, the Bulls went on a 9-0 spurt, seven of the points coming from LaVine.

With 6:26 to play, Chicago guard Alex Caruso drained a three from the corner to tie the game at 91. The Bulls then took their first lead since the second quarter on a Patrick Beverley long-range bucket; his first and only points of the game.

With just 12 seconds left, the Bulls led 107-104. Siakam pulled up from beyond the arc and was fouled by Caruso. This put Siakam on the line with a chance to tie the game. He made the first free throw but missed both the second and third as they still trailed by two. The Raptors shot just 50% from the free throw line all game. This seemed to be caused, in part, by DeRozan’s daughter, Diar. She was sitting behind the basket and screaming every time Toronto shot a free throw.

On the next possession, Vucevic hit two from the charity stripe to put the game out of reach.

The Bulls won by a final score of 109-105 over the Raptors.

Off to Miami

After their win over the Raptors, the Bulls will head to Miami to face off against the Heat on Friday. Miami lost Tuesday in its first play-in game to the Atlanta Hawks. Chicago beat the Heat in all three matchups during the regular season, including opening night in Miami. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. Friday.

All the pressure is on. Win and you’re in.

About Hugh Green

Hugh is a third year student majoring in Journalism: Sports and Media at the University of Florida.

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