Season over: Raptors miss playoffs after blowing lead in must-win play-in game
Well, that’s probably not how the Toronto Raptors drew up their season ending.
Controlling the pace of play through much of the first three quarters, Toronto fell to the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday night by way of a fourth-quarter collapse in the Eastern Conference 9-10 play-in matchup.
By way of a 109-105 loss against the Bulls, Toronto is now eliminated from contention from the NBA postseason, while Chicago is moving on to the next round of the NBA play-in against the Miami Heat.
With a chance to tie up the game with 12 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, Toronto’s Pascal Siakam went 1-for-3 from the free throw line.
But with Toronto leading by as much as 16 points midway through the third quarter, they couldn’t find a way to hold on.
Chicago’s Alex Caruso tied things up at 91-91 with 6:26 to go in the fourth quarter to complete the first leg of Chicago’s comeback.
The teams traded a series of back-and-forth possessions, before Chicago pulled away in the game’s final moments.
Patrick Beverley gave the Bulls their first lead of the whole game with a three-point shot to put Chicago up 96-93 with 5:07 left in the fourth quarter.
With 3:10 left, Raptors guard Fred VanVleet hit a clutch three-pointer of his own to even the game at 100 points a piece. But Toronto would score just four points over the remainder of the game, ending the season on a sour note.
Scoring 11 points in the first quarter, VanVleet didn’t hit another shot until just before halftime.
VanVleet made the next one he hit count, making the likely highlight of the night in the sporting world, hitting a half-court shot as the halftime buzzer went to give the Raptors a 58-47 lead after two quarters.
FRED VANVLEET AT THE HALFTIME BUZZER 🚨 pic.twitter.com/d5yIEFDL0c
— ESPN (@espn) April 13, 2023
Siakam led both teams with a 20-point first half, as he finished the game with 32 points.
Zach LaVine put up 39 points on the night to lead the Bulls’ efforts on the evening.
A familiar friend in Chicago’s DeMar DeRozan — he of 726 career regular season and playoff games with the Toronto Raptors — put up 23 points on the night.
Friday’s play-in game featuring the Bulls and Heat will take place at 7 pm ET/4 pm PT in two days’ time, with the winner advancing to take on the Milwaukee Bucks in the first round of the playoffs.
Longtime Toronto Raptors star Kyle Lowry put up 33 points on Tuesday night in Miami’s 116-105 loss to the Atlanta Hawks, as he’ll be facing off against DeRozan for the Eastern Conference’s eighth and final playoff berth.
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