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.
LaVine finished with 39 points — 30 of them scored after half-time — 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.
Chicago coach Billy Donovan hailed LaVine’s role in the comeback as “extraordinary.”
“He was phenomenal,” Donovan said. “What he did in that third quarter and going into the fourth quarter -– it would have been very difficult for us to have won that game had he not done that.
“His performance was extraordinary. It gave us life, and it gave us hope.
“And I give him credit -– he had that mentality where he was going to do whatever he had to get us back in the game.”
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 percent success rate which was in stark contrast to the Bulls, who made 18 of their 22 free throws.
“That’s a lot of misses,” Toronto coach Nick Nurse said afterwards. “We left a lot of points on the floor there for sure.
“Okay, you’re not going to make them all. But if you miss more than 10 free throws in a game, it’s hard to win.”
Pascal Siakam (32 points) and Fred VanVleet (26) were both outstanding for Toronto, with VanVleet electrifying the home crowd with a buzzer-beating three-pointer from near half-way as the second quarter ended.
That gave Toronto a 58-47 lead at half-time, 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 three-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 nervously drained his two free-throws to seal the win.
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