Raptors find out nothing is free, losing to Bulls and Zach LaVine

Despite falling behind by 19 points in the third quarter, LaVine & Co. took advantage of Toronto’s 18-for-36 performance at the free-throw line ... and got a little help along the way from DeMar DeRozan’s 9-year-old daughter. Now it’s off to Miami to face the Heat on Friday with a playoff berth on the line.

SHARE Raptors find out nothing is free, losing to Bulls and Zach LaVine
Zach LaVine

Thanks to some horrific free throw shooting by Toronto, as well as a stellar 30-point second half by Zach LaVine, the Bulls made the improbable comeback, advancing to Miami for a second play-in game.

Andrew Lahodynskyj/Getty

TORONTO — That clanging noise you heard was just another missed free throw by a Raptor.

Thanks to Toronto’s poor free-throw shooting (18-for-36) and Zach LaVine’s 39 points (30 in the second half), the Bulls advanced to the second-round play-in game against the Heat in Miami with a 109-105 victory Wednesday.

It’s another win-or-go-home showdown, but this time with a familiar face in former Bull Jimmy Butler awaiting them. The winner gets the No. 8 seed and the right to take on the top-seeded Bucks in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs.

Some prize.

But considering where the Bulls stood at halftime at Scotiabank Arena, they’ll take it.

“I’ll let you all decide [if this was his first memorable big-game performance with the Bulls],’’ LaVine said. “I just wanted to win the game. If I had zero points or 40, I just wanted to help us win the game. Move on to the next one and see what we can do from there.’’

As for the Raptors’ free-throw misses, no Bull was complaining.

“I mean, it’s a one-and-done game,’’ LaVine said. “Obviously, you want to give yourself the best chance. I’m happy they missed a lot of them, but we stepped up and made ours.’’

LaVine sure did, going 6-for-6 from the foul line in the fourth quarter.

“Amazing,’’ DeMar DeRozan said of LaVine’s second half. “He carried us, put his will on the game, and we followed, offensively and defensively. That’s why he is who he is.’’

But there was a key weapon for the Bulls off the court.

DeRozan’s daughter, Diar, went viral early in the game, sitting courtside and screaming at the top of her lungs every time a Raptor was at the free-throw line. By the end of the game, the 9-year-old easily could have been named co-MVP of the comeback victory.

“It’s crazy; my daughter called me the other day when she was getting out of school, and she just said, ‘Dad, can I come to the Toronto game?’ ’’ said DeRozan, who played nine years in Toronto. “I almost said no because she’s in school back home. She was adamant about coming. I just said, ‘You can miss one day of school for support.’ I’m glad I did it.’’

He wasn’t alone, and now the Bulls have another game on the schedule.

“I give them a lot of credit,’’ coach Billy Donovan said. “Getting down like that and having the toughness to continue to fight and get back in the game.’’

The Bulls were down by 19 in the third quarter, but they stuck with it with each missed free throw by the Raptors.

By the time Alex Caruso made a corner three-pointer with 6:26 left, the score was tied, and the Raptors, who went 5-for-10 from the foul line in the fourth, looked cooked.

Fred VanVleet tied the score with 3:11 left, but the Bulls got back-to-back baskets from LaVine and DeRozan.

The Raptors’ last gasp came with 12 seconds left. Trailing by three, Pascal Siakam was fouled on a three-point attempt. He made the first free throw and missed the next two.

DeRozan was asked if Diar would be heading to Miami.

“Nah,’’ he said. “She’s gotta go back to school.’’

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