Zach LaVine rallies a Bulls 19-pointer and stuns the Raptors in an elimination game.

Zach LaVine rallies a Bulls 19-pointer and stuns the Raptors in an elimination game.

The Toronto Raptors were cruising towards what looked like an easy home win during Wednesday’s game against the Chicago Bulls.

Zack Lavigne had other ideas. The Bulls guard fueled a furious Chicago rally in the second half from a 19-point deficit to secure a 109-105 win to survive the playoffs. The Raptors season ended with a stunning loss.

Toronto—the ninth seed—opened up a 28-23 lead in the first quarter, then capped off a 30-24 second lead on a half-court shot by Fred VanVleet to enter halftime with a 58-47 lead. Buoyed by an enthusiastic home crowd, they extended their lead as high as 66-47 early in the third. But this was not enough.

Zach LaVine scored 30 of his 39 points after halftime. (John E. Sokolowski/Reuters)

The tenth-ranked Bulls went 9-0 in the fourth quarter to cut their deficit to 87-84. They tied the game at 91-91 and then took a halftime lead, 96-93, on a Patrick Beverly 3-pointer with 5:07 remaining. The Raptors narrowed their deficit to one in the final minute of the game, but LaVine extended Chicago’s lead to 107-104 with two free throws with 17.2 seconds left in the game. His last free throw was the 39th point in the game and the 30th point in 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. Alex Caruso was whistled by the officials for fouling Siakam’s 3-point effort with 12 seconds left in the game. He hit the first, but missed the next two, ensuring a Chicago victory.

The missed free throws were a fitting end to the game that saw Toronto shoot 50% (18-of-36) on the bar. It seemed that helping DeMar DeRozan’s daughter from the stands had a real impact on the game.

Diyar DeRozan with assistance

DeRozan, who spent his first nine seasons with the Raptors, brought his daughter Diar DeRozan to the game to cheer for the Bulls. She had excellent base benching under the basket, and used it for Chicago’s advantage. When the Scotiabank Center crowd fell silent about the Raptors’ free throws, Diar let out a yell to distract the Toronto shooters.

It did so on each of Toronto’s 36 free throws. The Raptors shot well below their season long average of 78.4% at the bar, which ultimately proved costly.

DeRozan had 23 points, seven rebounds, three assists and two steals against the former Raptors, who traded him to the Spurs in 2018 in the deal that sent Kawhi Leonard to Toronto. After the match, Diar walked onto the field to hug her father while being interviewed by ESPN.

“We didn’t get overwhelmed. We didn’t get negative results,” DeRozan said. “We had the confidence of knowing we could come back.”

The Bulls advanced on Friday to face the No. 7-ranked Miami Heat, who lost to the eighth-ranked Atlanta Hawks on Tuesday in a tiebreaker at the goal line. The winner of the Friday game will secure a berth in the East final.

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