The NBA champions have won 10 straight against the Bulls, including 108-84 in their first meeting this season. The teams have yet to meet in Toronto this season.
The Raptors thrived when both Serge Ibaka and Kyle Lowry were injured, going 8-2 without both in the lineup. Their return last week coincided with a jump in the degree of difficulty of the Raptors’ schedule. In their recent drought, they have lost to some of the better teams in the league — Miami, the Houston Rockets and Philadelphia.
The Raptors, who had not dropped three in a row since November 2018, lost Fred VanVleet on Sunday with a right knee contusion. He scored two points and played 12 minutes before being declared out for the remainder of the game and likely will not play Monday.
Pascal Siakam, who entered Sunday’s game averaging 25 points a game this season for Toronto, was held to 16 points and seven rebounds Sunday. Lowry had 26 points, and OG Anunoby had 19 points and 10 rebounds.
“I think we’ve got to be really happy with where we are at this point,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said. “Just because I think we’ve looked at some players, played some really good basketball, we’ve played hard, I think, most nights — you can’t argue with the effort — and I think we’ve built a deeper team in this stretch.”
The Raptors trailed by 21 points on Sunday, but played a strong fourth quarter, forcing 11 turnovers leading to 16 points and outscoring the Sixers 36-24.
“Our identity is pretty clear,” Raptors center Marc Gasol said. “What kind of team we are and what we stand for defensively and what our pillars are on both ends of the floor. Now it’s a matter of putting everything together, and we will.”
The Bulls came close to giving the Heat their first loss in 10 home games this season. They had a one-point lead in the final seconds of the fourth quarter.
The Heat went up by two points on a 3-pointer by Tyler Herro with 7.1 seconds to go in the fourth quarter, and Zach LaVine tied it for Chicago with two free throws with two seconds left in regulation.
“We got a lot from a lot of guys,” Bulls coach Jim Boylen said. “We battled.”
LaVine finished with 18 points and Lauri Markkanen scored 22.
The Bulls had a 40-38 advantage over the Heat in points in the paint, an area they have worked on. But the Heat had 12-8 edge in second-chance points and a 43-39 advantage in rebounds.
Chicago’s Chandler Hutchison (right shoulder sprain) missed his fifth consecutive game, but is getting closer to a return. “Every day, his shoulder gets less sore, more loose,” Boylen said.
–Field Level Media