Playoff hopes still alive, as Markkanen lead Bulls past Raptors

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Bulls guard Zach LaVine, right, drives to the basket against Toronto Raptors center Khem Birch, left, and guard Jalen Harris during the first half on Thursday. LaVine scored 24 points, Lauri Markkanen added 20 and the Bulls beat the short-handed Toronto Raptors.

    Bulls guard Zach LaVine, right, drives to the basket against Toronto Raptors center Khem Birch, left, and guard Jalen Harris during the first half on Thursday. LaVine scored 24 points, Lauri Markkanen added 20 and the Bulls beat the short-handed Toronto Raptors. Associated Press

 
Associated Press
Updated 5/13/2021 11:11 PM

Zach LaVine scored 24 points, Lauri Markkanen added 20 and the Bulls beat the short-handed Toronto Raptors 114-102 on Thursday night.

The Bulls pulled within two games of idle Washington with two remaining for 10th place in the Eastern Conference and the final play-in spot. Chicago led by 24 in the third quarter, with the Raptors holding out their best players, and came away with the win despite a big effort by Stanley Johnson.

 

"We don't control our own desiny, but we live another day, so to speak here," coach Billy Donovan said. "It's out of our hands. And I thought it was important that we show up and do our job as best we can."

LaVine, coming off a 41-point in Tuesday's loss to Brooklyn, scored 16 in the second half.

Markkanen made six 3-pointers -- one shy of his season high.

Coby White had 17 points and 10 assists. Nikola Vucevic added 16 points and 16 rebounds to help the Bulls win for the fourth time in five games.

Johnson led Toronto with a career-high 35 points. The sixth-year pro nailed six 3s and grabbed 10 rebounds while playing turnover-free ball.

"You put a lot of work in, you put a lot of effort into something, to get a positive result and affection is always good," Johnson said. "As much as you kill yourself when you're down, you've got to give yourself a pat on the butt when you're up. ... To be able to play a decent game, a good game, I'm happy."

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Rookie Jalen Harris scored a personal-best 17. Malachi Flynn added 16 points. But Toronto lost for the eighth time in nine games.

Considering the Raptors used eight players and were missing their top six scorers, with Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet, Kyle Lowry, OG Anunoby, Gary Trent Jr. and Chris Boucher injured or resting, this one went about as expected.

It was 48-39 when Thaddeus Young scored on a put-back with about 7 1/2 remaining in the first half, kicking off a nine-point spurt. White punctuated it with a thunderous fast-break dunk on Johnson, drawing a roar from the crowd.

"I just caught the ball on the fast break," White said. "Stanley Johnson's an athletic guy. ... A lot of people don't know this, but in high school, I could get up."

The Bulls led 66-47 at the half and got it up to 24 in the third before Toronto pulled within 12 entering the fourth.

A 3-pointer by Johnson made it 103-92 with just under six minutes remaining. But Markkanen answered with one of his own and White scored on a floater.

"I think we've got to gain better awareness of how you allow teams to get back in games," Donovan said. "These guys are playing the game of basketball, something we've all been around our whole entire lives and you love it. You should be able to just go out there and compete and play. I thought the turnovers and them getting out in transition kind of fueled them, ignited them, gave them energy, gave them life."

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