Canada

Bulls push to keep fragile postseason hopes alive vs. Raptors

The visiting Toronto Raptors take a four-game losing streak into Thursday night’s game against the Chicago Bulls.

The Raptors (27-42), whose string of seven consecutive playoff appearances will end this season, sent out a depleted lineup in a 115-96 home loss to the Los Angeles Clippers at Tampa on Tuesday night.

“It’s a little sad, to be honest, to have that run (end),” coach Nick Nurse said before the game on Tuesday.

The Bulls (29-40) had a three-game winning streak stopped by a 115-107 home loss to the Brooklyn Nets on Tuesday, damaging their fragile chance of making the play-in tournament.

The Bulls lost despite 41 points from Zach LaVine.

The Bulls guard missed 11 games after testing positive for COVID-19. He is averaging 27.3 points per game in the four games since his return and is back to his usual workload.

“The COVID stuff has impacted everybody a little bit differently, but I think anytime you talk to any of the players, at least here, that have dealt with it, it takes a while to get back,” Bulls coach Billy Donovan said. “I’m absolutely amazed. He’s got a few games under his belt and — you can still see he does get a little bit winded, which is natural — but for him to get back to that level. … What he did was incredible (Tuesday).”

“This is my job,” LaVine said. “To come back at this time of the year when I know the team needs me. I need to come out here and try to do the best I can. It’s not about me being tired or being in the best shape or in rhythm. You’ve just got to get it done.”

LaVine has had 14 games to work with Nikola Vucevic, who was obtained in a deal at the trade deadline with the Orlando Magic, and it appears to be going well.

Vucevic had 12 points, 12 rebounds and six assists on Tuesday.

“Even from the beginning, I think it’s been good.” LaVine said. “I think the part we had to get down was how we were going to assert ourselves with the lineup and rest of the team and what’s the correct lineup to go out there with us and the correct spacing on offense or what pace we’re going to play at. A lot of his response with me is, ‘Whatever you want to do, and I’ll figure it out.’ It’s pretty easy.”

The Bulls have won both games against Toronto this season. In defeating the Raptors 122-113 at Tampa on April 8, the Bulls had 22 points each from LaVine and Vucevic.

Among those who did not play for the Raptors on Tuesday were OG Anunoby (calf), Kyle Lowry (rest), Fred VanVleet (hip), Pascal Siakam (shoulder) and Rodney Hood (hand).

Chris Boucher (knee) returned after missing nine games and had 16 points with seven rebounds against the Clippers.

“I think it’s a difficult thing to have a seven-year run, so I think first of all, the organization — and all of us — should be proud of that,” Nurse said. “And then on the other hand, it’s disappointing. I thought we played about as well as we could last year, and with a break or two could have kept on rolling who knows how far a year ago.”

–Field Level Media

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