Bulls rally from 19-point deficit to beat Raptors originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
TORONTO — The Chicago Bulls kept saying they were different, that despite an underachieving and inconsistent season, they were tougher and more prepared for playoff basketball.
The Bulls aren’t yet there, but they took a big step towards qualifying by becoming the first No. 10 seed to win a play-in game on Wednesday night.
Rallying from a 19-point, third-quarter deficit, the Bulls showed toughness, tenacity and teamwork to overcome a poor shooting night from 3-point range and defeat the Toronto Raptors 109-105 at Scotiabank Arena.
The Bulls will travel to Miami to face the Heat on Friday night for the right to a first-round matchup with the Milwaukee Bucks. The Raptors head to their offseason, where multiple questions surround the future of coach Nick Nurse.
Zach LaVine’s 39 points led the Bulls, who also got 23 from DeMar DeRozan in his return to the city where he remains beloved.
LaVine’s driving layup with 2 minutes, 47 seconds left nudged the Bulls ahead for good. Following a missed Gary Trent 3-pointer, DeRozan sank another driving floater for a four-point advantage.
The Bulls benefited from a shockingly poor performance from the free-throw line by the Raptors, who finished 18-for-36 from the line. That included Pascal Siakam splitting two huge free throws with 50 seconds left.
DeRozan followed by splitting two free throws with 28.7 seconds left for a 105-102 lead. Siakam threw down a nasty, driving dunk with 19.7 seconds left.
LaVine sank both free throws with 17.9 seconds left for a three-point lead. But officials called Alex Caruso, who was dominant defensively, for fouling Pascal Siakam on a 3-point shot with 12 seconds left. Siakam sank one of three foul shots.
Nikola Vucevic then made it a two-possession game by sinking both free throws with 11.1 seconds left.
The Bulls scored 22 points off Raptors’ turnovers to offset the Raptors’ 22 second-chance points. The Bulls opened 2-for-18 from 3-point range and finished 7-for-26.
The matchup featured adjustments from both coaches, most notably the Bulls’ Billy Donovan riding DeRozan. In the first half, he had short breaks of 1 minutes, 52 seconds and 2:23 in the do-or-die affair.
But initially, season-long issues hurt the Bulls. VanVleet’s double-pump, 40-foot 3-pointer at the halftime buzzer gave the Raptors a plus-18, first-half advantage from beyond the arc. And Siakam scored 20 by halftime, repeatedly burning favorable matchups against smaller guards, particularly in the non-Alex Caruso minutes.
After a poor start to the third quarter, the Bulls showed a pulse when Derrick Jones Jr. entered for the first time. A small lineup began forcing turnovers defensively, and LaVine entered attack mode, scoring 17 in the period.
The Bulls trimmed a 19-point deficit to nine entering the fourth and then took their first lead since 29-28 on a Patrick Beverley 3-pointer with 5 minutes, 7 seconds left.
The Bulls won all three meetings this season against the Heat, including a season-opening victory on the road. The Heat lost at home on Tuesday night to the Atlanta Hawks.