Raptors book playoff berth despite loss to Chicago Bulls
The Chicago Bulls strengthened their grip on the NBA`s Eastern Conference third seed on Wednesday with a 116-103 come-from-behind triumph over Toronto, who nevertheless secured their own playoff berth.
Jimmy Butler, making his second start since missing 11 games with an elbow injury, had 23 points, Pau Gasol scored 18 and the Bulls rallied in the fourth quarter, sweeping the season series between the two teams.
Chicago, who clinched a playoff berth for the seventh consecutive year with Monday`s win over Charlotte, outscored Toronto 39-21 in the fourth quarter.
They took their first lead since the opening minutes of the game on Nikola Mirotic`s layup with 5:47 remaining, which followed Kirk Hinrich`s basket from the right corner.
The shots were part of a 25-8 run over the final seven minutes of the game.
"The ball moved really well with quick decisions," said Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau. "We had a lot of guys step up."
Chicago`s French big man Joakim Noah said the Bulls believe they have the "deepest team in the East."
"We have a lot of offensive weapons," Noah said. "We shot 60 percent (from the floor) in a big game. That`s pretty impressive."
Tony Snell scored nine of his 17 points in the fourth period for Chicago, who stretched their lead over the Raptors for third place in the East to 1 1/2 games.
The Raptors, who have now dropped 13 of their last 18, could have clinched the Atlantic Division with a win and a Boston loss to Miami.
They still locked up a playoff berth when the Celtics fell to the Heat 93-86 in Boston.
Goran Dragic had 22 points, seven assists and five rebounds for the Heat, who moved two games in front of the Celtics for the seventh seed in the East.
The Celtics, meanwhile, are trying to hold off the Indiana Pacers, Brooklyn Nets and Charlotte Hornets for the eighth and final post-season spot.
Indiana boosted their playoff bid with a 103-101 victory over the Wizards in Washington.
George Hill scored 12 of his 29 points in the fourth quarter and made the go-ahead layup with 2.7 seconds remaining to lift the Pacers.
Hill added nine assists and seven rebounds for Indiana, who ended a six-game skid.
The Nets did themselves some good with a 91-88 victory over the Hornets in Charlotte.
Brook Lopez scored 34 points, including 10 in the fourth quarter, and pulled down 10 rebounds for the Nets, who are level with Charlotte with a 30-40 record and still in with a playoff chance.