It was the final game of the season in the WNBA, and a win meant the Chicago Bulls would make the play-in tournament. The Bulls knew the game was win or go home. The Raptors knew the Bulls knew and that they had to win to get into the play-in tournament. The Raptors lost the game, but they didn’t lose any hope.
The Chicago Bulls defeated the Toronto Raptors on Tuesday night, but the Indiana Pacers’ loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers meant that the Bulls still have a slim chance of making it into the play-in tournament. With only one game remaining between Indiana and Chicago, the Bulls need to win and have Indiana lose in order to make it in. The Bulls are currently 8-9, while the Pacers are 8-10, so the Bulls not only need to win, but they need the Pacers to lose as well. If the Bulls and Pacers both win their last game, then the two teams will have identical records of 9-9 and they will have to have a tie-breaker to decide who’s in and who’s out.
The Bulls (30-40) entered the evening with their fragile hopes for the postseason at stake. With Washington in the lead, the script was simple: win and hope the Wizards lose their last two games. Easier said than done, as Chicago closes out the season with games against Brooklyn and Milwaukee, and the Wizards play Friday night against Cleveland.
The Raptors (27-43), whose seven-game playoff streak will end this season, came to Chicago with a four-game losing streak. They played without seven of their starters, including Fred VanVleet, Kyle Lowry and Pascal Siakam.
Nikola Vucevic has played 27 games for the Bulls since being acquired from Orlando at the trade deadline, but today was only the 15th time he was available. Zach LaVine on the field for the first time. Chicago is 5-7 when one of their two All-Stars drops out.
Vucevic (16/16/6) and Zach LaVine (24/5/2) led the Bulls, while six players on the team scored in double figures. Tonight was Vucevic’s 47th game. Double-double, and he also became the first Bulls player to make 200 three-pointers in a season. Chicago was able to outscore its opponents 58-41 by shooting 54% from the field and 47% from mid-range. For Toronto Stanley, Johnson accounted for 35 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 steals.
Chicago swept the season series against the Raptors with tonight’s win and has now won four of its last five games. Tomorrow, the Bulls and their fans will be looking at the scoreboard as Washington tries to secure the last spot in the playoffs with a win over the Cavaliers.
Against a team that is practically a premier league team, the Bulls fell behind early, while Toronto led 9-2 early on. However, the home team quickly came back with the aggressive play of Vucevic, who finished the quarter with a 10/4/2. The home team distributed the ball well on the court, hitting 12 shots and handing out 10 assists while shooting 57% from the field and 56% from downtown.
Coby White (12/2/4) and Lauri Markkanen (12/3/1) took over in the second quarter as the Bulls began a 12-4 run to start the quarter. Javonte Green continued his excellent play from the bench with eight points, a block and a steal. The highlight of the first half was an impressive dunk by White on a fastbreak. The Bulls then took complete control of the game and went into halftime with a 19-point lead.
The Bulls quickly ran out to a 24-point lead, their largest of the game, after Patrick Williams opened the second half with five points in a row. But the Raptors were smart and took a 9-0 run to cut the deficit to 14 points. Toronto refused to give up easily, increased their defensive effort and forced the Bulls into eight fouls. The visitors closed the third quarter on a 14-4 run and were down just 12 points in the fourth quarter.
Despite the change in momentum, coach Donovan opted to leave LaVine and Vucevic on the bench, and the Raptors cut the Bulls’ lead to single digits by halftime. Fortunately, LaVine decided to take the game to his stride and keep Toronto at bay, so Chicago ended up winning 114-102.
The Bulls (30-40) travel to Brooklyn (46-24) on Saturday. The match is scheduled for noon on NBC Sports Chicago and 670 The Score. As always, you can check out the latest Bulls content, articles, podcasts and more on the Bulls On Tap site.
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