NBA

Bulls coach hails 'extraordinary' LaVine, Raptors left to lament 50 per cent FT shooting

By Sports Desk April 13, 2023

Chicago Bulls head coach Billy Donovan labelled Zach LaVine as "extraordinary" after his 30 second-half points lifted them past the Toronto Raptors 109-105 in their play-in tournament game on Wednesday.

LaVine finished with 39 points as the Bulls advanced to take on the Miami Heat for the right to the eight seed and a playoffs first round series against Eastern Conference top seed Milwaukee Bucks.

The Bulls guard's 30-point second half was the most points he has scored in any half this season, fuelling a fightback after trailing by 19 points.

"What he did going into the third quarter and into the fourth, it would have been very, very difficult for us to have won that game if he had not done that," Donovan said about LaVine.

"His performance was extraordinary. It gave us life and it gave us hope. Then once we got back into it, I think a lot of guys made a lot of different plays.

"But I give him credit, he had that mentality that he's going to do whatever he can do to get us back into the game."

LaVine put his second-half success down to "aggressiveness" and driving to the basket, capitalising on the Raptors trying to double-team DeMar DeRozan, who had 23 points and seven rebounds. DeRozan called LaVine "amazing" and said the Bulls followed his lead.

Meanwhile, the loss ended the Raptors' season, meaning they have missed the playoffs in two of their past three seasons, putting pressure on head coach Nick Nurse to retain his job.

"It was tough," Nurse said reflecting on the 2022-23 season. "I think we had some up and downs. I thought we came out of the gates playing pretty well. Then we had to weather some injuries and we did that and once we got everybody back that got us out of rhythm and took a couple tough losses.

"I've told the guys several times in the last two weeks, I'm proud of them for getting back to .500 when they were six or seven games below .500, because we did coach them hard and work them hard to rebuilding some of the foundational stuff.

"I thought we played well enough to win tonight, it just didn’t go our way."

Nurse lamented his side's 50 per cent free-throw shooting, making 18-of-36, not helped by DeRozan's daughter Diar, who screamed with a shrill every time they had an attempt from the line.

"That's a lot of misses," Nurse said. "We left a lot of points on the board."

DeRozan laughed off his daughter's antics which caught plenty of attention on social media given her persistent nature throughout the game.

"I've just seen it, she went viral," he said. "I kept hearing something during the game and when somebody missed a free-throw I thought 'damn, is that my daughter screaming?' I was just making sure she was alright though."

DeRozan added that Diar would not be able to attend Friday's play-in game on the road against the Heat, instead needing to go back to school.

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