Zach LaVine had other ideas. The Bulls guard fueled a furious second-half Chicago rally from a 19-point deficit to secure a 109-105 win to stay alive for the playoffs. The Raptors' season comes to an end with the stunning loss.
Toronto — seeded ninth — opened a 28-23 first-quarter lead, then capped a 30-24 second quarter with a buzzer-beating halfcourt shot from Fred VanVleet to enter halftime with a 58-47 edge. Backed by an enthusiastic home crowd, they extended their lead to as much as 66-47 early in the third. But it wasn't enough.
The 10th-seeded Bulls mounted a 9-0 fourth-quarter run to cut their deficit to 87-84. They tied the game at 91-91 then took their first lead of the half at 96-93 on a Patrick Beverley 3-pointer with 5:07 remaining. The Raptors cut their deficit to one in the game's final minute, but LaVine extended Chicago's lead to 107-104 with two free throws with 17.2 seconds remaining. His last free throw was his 39th point of the game and his 30th of the second half. He added six rebounds and three assists.
Pascal Siakam had a chance to tie the game for the Raptors with three free throws on the other end. Officials whistled Alex Caruso for a shooting foul on a Siakam 3-point attempt with 12 seconds remaining. He hit the first, but missed the next two, ensuring the Chicago victory.
The missed free throws marked a fitting end to a game that saw Toronto shoot 50% (18 of 36) at the stripe. An assist from DeMar DeRozan's daughter from the stands appeared to make a real impact on the game.
Diar DeRozan with the assist
DeRozan, who spent his first nine seasons with the Raptors, brought his daughter, Diar DeRozan, to the game to cheer on his Bulls. She had premium baseline seats under the basket, and used them to Chicago's advantage. As the Scotiabank Centre home crowd went silent for Raptors free throws, Diar let out a scream to distract Toronto's shooters.
DeMar's daughter is screaming whenever the Raptors take free throws 😂 pic.twitter.com/HxmMz3BYgq
— ESPN (@espn) April 13, 2023
She did this for each of Toronto's 36 free throws. The Raptors shot well below their season-long rate of 78.4% at the stripe, proving costly at the end.
DeRozan tallied 23 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 blocks against his former Raptors team that traded him to the Spurs in 2018 in the deal that sent Kawhi Leonard to Toronto. After the game, Diar walked on the court to give her dad a hug as he gave an interview to ESPN.
"We didn't get flustered. We didn't get negative," DeRozan said. "We had the confidence knowing we could make a comeback."
The Bulls advance to face the No. 7 seed Miami Heat, who lost to the eighth-seeded Atlanta Hawks on Tuesday with a playoff spot on the line. The winner of Friday's game will secure the East's final playoff berth.