Bulls will start their play-in journey Wednesday in Toronto

While the win over Dallas on Friday was more about pride than changing anything in the standings for the Bulls, with the Raptors losing to the Celtics, the play-in game was set.

SHARE Bulls will start their play-in journey Wednesday in Toronto
Zach LaVine

The Bulls found out their play-in fate on Friday, meaning Zach LaVine and Co. will be headed to Toronto for the Wednesday showdown.

Cole Burston/Getty

DeMar DeRozan is going home.

Thanks to the Celtics running the Raptors out of the arena Friday night in Boston, the Bulls officially head to Toronto on Wednesday to face the Raptors in a win-or-go-home battle of No. 9 and 10 seeds in the Eastern Conference play-in tournament.

“Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful,” DeRozan said before Friday’s 115-112 victory over the Mavericks that eliminated the Mavs’ from playoff contention. “It would be very exciting. It would be real cool.”

DeRozan knows Toronto intimately, having spent his first nine NBA seasons there after the Raptors drafted him ninth overall out of USC in 2009. When he was traded to the Spurs after the 2018 season, he admittedly was in tears, never wanting to leave.

Defeating his former team won’t be easy, especially with how well the Raptors played the Bulls in two games in Toronto earlier this season. The Bulls won in Chicago in November but lost the season series 2-1. When they kept the athletic Raptors front line off the glass, they were in good shape. When they were outrebounded — as they were, 47-35, in their last meeting — they took the “L.”

The Bulls have more experience in the starting lineup, but the Raptors are more athletic and play with more urgency.

But back to Friday and a strange game in Dallas in which both teams rested most of their star power. The Mavericks sat Kyrie Irving, Tim Hardaway Jr., Josh Green, Maxi Kleber and Christian Wood, while the Bulls sat Zach LaVine, DeRozan and Patrick Beverley but kept Alex Caruso in limited action.

It made sense for the Bulls (39-42), considering there was nothing they could gain from the outcome. But the Mavs’ decision was more confusing, considering they began the day still in the mix for a play-in spot and tied with the Bulls for the 10th-best draft lottery odds, already owing the Knicks a top-10 protected pick in the Kristaps Porzingis trade.

The Mavericks decided late in the season that protecting future draft assets was more important than a run for a play-in spot and hope for a playoff run. Basically, they chose the opposite path the Bulls did.

That resulted in a starting five of Luka Doncic (who played into the second quarter only), Frank Ntilikina, Reggie Bullock, Dwight Powell and Jaden Hardy. The Bulls started Caruso, Patrick Williams, Nikola Vucevic, Coby White and Ayo Dosunmu.

Vucevic played into the third quarter, scoring 20 points and grabbing 10 rebounds.

But the player who really stood out in extended minutes was White, who scored 24 points on 10-for-17 shooting with 11 assists and seven rebounds.

The Bulls finish the regular season against the Pistons on Sunday at the United Center before preparing for the Raptors. It’s not exactly what they were hoping for when the season began, but they only had themselves to blame.

“Obviously, at this point in time, you would want to be in a situation where you know you are one of those top six seeds, where you are not trying to get into the playoffs,” coach Billy Donovan said. “It is what it is, and we’ll have to deal with it.”

The Latest
The right-hander allowed four home runs against the Yankees on Saturday.
The Champions thought they had won the city title after a ground out to first, but had to do it all over again after an umpire revealed his call.
“They’ve been helping us out a lot, so there’s going to be a time where we can help them sometime, and that’s what we’re going to do,” outfielder Seiya Suzuki said.