CHICAGO (AP) — The Raptors held off the Chicago Bulls and then turned their attention toward the superstar who led them to their first championship in his lone season with Toronto.
It figures to be quite a night tomorrow when Kawhi Leonard visits Toronto for the first time since signing with the Los Angeles Clippers. The NBA Finals MVP will pick up his ring and probably get a warm welcome.
“I think it’s going to be a good moment for him and I think he’s going to be really, really happy to get his ring,” Kyle Lowry said.
The Raptors were happy to leave Chicago with a victory yesterday.
Pascal Siakam scored 22 points, and Toronto held on to beat the Bulls 93-92 when Zach LaVine missed a runner in the closing seconds.
Norman Powell added 17 points, including six in the fourth quarter, and the defending NBA champions ended their first three-game skid since last November. After beating Chicago for the 11th straight time, their focus shifted toward Leonard and the Clippers.
“I would imagine that our fans are going to give him an amazing ovation,” coach Nick Nurse said. “If they give him one-fifteenth of what they gave us on opening night, it’s still going to be something. It was really amazing the night we got ours.”
LaVine scored 20 for Chicago — all in the first half. Wendell Carter Jr and Daniel Gafford each had 14 points for the Bulls, who made just 12 of 46 three-pointers on the way to their sixth loss in eight games.
“I coach by faith,” the Bulls’ animated Jim Boylen said. “I coach and teach every day on where I think we’re gonna be. When that’s gonna happen, when that’s gonna break through, I’m not sure. But I’m gonna keep coaching that way.”
He insisted the Bulls are making progress even though the losses continue to mount in a season when they expected to contend for a playoff spot. Some fans are staying away, leaving conspicuous empty seats.
Boylen insisted the Bulls are playing “good, hard basketball” and simply need to win “two or three more possessions.”
“I’m not gonna let any negativity deter us from that mission,” he added.
Raptors guard Fred VanVleet missed the game because of a bruised right knee. Lowry scored 11 points in his third game after missing 11 in a row with a broken left thumb. The five-time All-Star made one of eight three-pointers, and the Raptors hit seven of 29 from beyond the arc.
Denzel Valentine led the way as Chicago opened the fourth quarter with a 14-6 run that turned a 71-all tie into an 85-77 lead. He nailed a jumper, buried two three-pointers and fed Gafford for two alley-oop dunks. But the Raptors responded by scoring nine straight, going ahead on Lowry’s two free throws with 3:52 remaining.
Toronto was leading 89-87 when Chicago’s Lauri Markkanen nailed a three with 1:45 left. Powell scored for Toronto and Gafford hit a layup to give Chicago a 92-91 lead. Then Lowry scored on a drive with 51 seconds remaining.