NBA

Bulls coach hails 'extraordinary' LaVine, Raptors left to lament 50 per cent FT shooting

By Sports Desk April 13, 2023

Chicago Bulls head coach Billy Donovan labelled Zach LaVine as "extraordinary" after his 30 second-half points lifted them past the Toronto Raptors 109-105 in their play-in tournament game on Wednesday.

LaVine finished with 39 points as the Bulls advanced to take on the Miami Heat for the right to the eight seed and a playoffs first round series against Eastern Conference top seed Milwaukee Bucks.

The Bulls guard's 30-point second half was the most points he has scored in any half this season, fuelling a fightback after trailing by 19 points.

"What he did going into the third quarter and into the fourth, it would have been very, very difficult for us to have won that game if he had not done that," Donovan said about LaVine.

"His performance was extraordinary. It gave us life and it gave us hope. Then once we got back into it, I think a lot of guys made a lot of different plays.

"But I give him credit, he had that mentality that he's going to do whatever he can do to get us back into the game."

LaVine put his second-half success down to "aggressiveness" and driving to the basket, capitalising on the Raptors trying to double-team DeMar DeRozan, who had 23 points and seven rebounds. DeRozan called LaVine "amazing" and said the Bulls followed his lead.

Meanwhile, the loss ended the Raptors' season, meaning they have missed the playoffs in two of their past three seasons, putting pressure on head coach Nick Nurse to retain his job.

"It was tough," Nurse said reflecting on the 2022-23 season. "I think we had some up and downs. I thought we came out of the gates playing pretty well. Then we had to weather some injuries and we did that and once we got everybody back that got us out of rhythm and took a couple tough losses.

"I've told the guys several times in the last two weeks, I'm proud of them for getting back to .500 when they were six or seven games below .500, because we did coach them hard and work them hard to rebuilding some of the foundational stuff.

"I thought we played well enough to win tonight, it just didn’t go our way."

Nurse lamented his side's 50 per cent free-throw shooting, making 18-of-36, not helped by DeRozan's daughter Diar, who screamed with a shrill every time they had an attempt from the line.

"That's a lot of misses," Nurse said. "We left a lot of points on the board."

DeRozan laughed off his daughter's antics which caught plenty of attention on social media given her persistent nature throughout the game.

"I've just seen it, she went viral," he said. "I kept hearing something during the game and when somebody missed a free-throw I thought 'damn, is that my daughter screaming?' I was just making sure she was alright though."

DeRozan added that Diar would not be able to attend Friday's play-in game on the road against the Heat, instead needing to go back to school.

Related items

  • LeBron James to sit out Warriors clash due to ankle problem LeBron James to sit out Warriors clash due to ankle problem

    LeBron James has been ruled out of the Los Angeles Lakers' road game against the Golden State Warriors on Thursday as he continues to nurse an ankle problem.

    James has been suffering from peroneal tendinopathy in his left ankle, and the issue caused him to miss the Lakers' 138-122 road win over the Utah Jazz before the All-Star break.

    The NBA's all-time leading scorer did feature in Sunday's All-Star Game, but he was limited to just 14 minutes on the court as the Western Conference All-Stars lost 211-186 to their Eastern Conference counterparts.

    James said before Sunday's game that he would use the break to undergo treatment on his ankle, also suggesting his status for Thursday's trip to Chase Center was uncertain.

    On Wednesday, the Lakers announced he had officially been downgraded to out, causing him to miss his eighth game of the season.

    James had 36 points, 20 rebounds and 12 assists as the Lakers beat the Warriors in a double overtime classic last month, and the 39-year-old is averaging 24.8 points, 7.2 rebounds and 7.8 assists per game this season.

    Prior to the trade deadline earlier this month, the Warriors reportedly enquired about James' availability, only to be knocked back by Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka.

    James said last week that he wishes to finish his glittering career in Los Angeles, though he is yet to decide whether to take up his $51.4million player option for 2024-25.

    Thursday's matchup could prove crucial to the playoff hopes of both teams, with the Lakers emerging from the mid-season hiatus at 30-26 and the Warriors having a 27-26 record. 

  • Marks: Nets must improve 'level of compete' after Vaughn firing Marks: Nets must improve 'level of compete' after Vaughn firing

    Sean Marks says the Brooklyn Nets must improve their "level of compete" after head coach Jacque Vaughn was fired.

    Vaughn was dismissed on Monday after the Nets lost 136-86 to the Boston Celtics last week, leaving Brooklyn at 21-33 and 11th in the Eastern Conference heading into the All-Star break.

    The Nets had made the postseason in the last five seasons, but a 6-18 run has left the team with it all to do if they are to keep their playoff streak going.

    Nets general manager Sean Marks pointed to a perceived lack of effort as one area that must be fixed by the new head coach.

    "It's about the level of compete," Marks told reporters. "We're not going to be the most talented team in the league. I'm not an idiot. I totally understand that.

    "But at the same time, this is a talented group of young men out there. And my expectations, and I think their expectations, should be to hold each other accountable to do the little things. The effort plays, the loose balls, the contested shots and so forth, diving on the floor.

    "These are things that should be expected when you're in a place that we're at right now, where we're clawing and grappling for every single thing we can. That's what I would hope to see over these next 28 games, and that's probably, to be quite frank, some things I haven't seen. The level of effort and the level of compete has not always been there."

    Many pointed to the Nets' 144-122 defeat against the Milwaukee Bucks as the reason for Vaughn's firing. The Nets were fined $100,000 for violating the NBA's player participation policy after choosing to both rest and sit a number of key players.

    However, Marks said the Bucks drubbing was not the reason for Vaughn's exit, commenting: "I don't think we lost the team that day.

    "I appreciate the fact that players want to play. They want to play night in and night out.

    "Again, I don't think there was one decision that ultimately affected the record or [making] this decision this day. I think a lot of things went into that."

  • Timberwolves looking to 'maintain edge' at top of West after All-Star break Timberwolves looking to 'maintain edge' at top of West after All-Star break

    The Minnesota Timberwolves are top of the Western Conference but know they will have to "maintain that edge" as they return to action following the NBA All-Star break.

    Minnesota have not been beyond the first round of the playoffs in 20 years, yet they are in position to earn the number one seed through 55 games, boasting a 39-16 record and a 1.5-game lead over the Oklahoma City Thunder.

    The All-Star break has been a busy one for the T-Wolves, with Chris Finch coaching the West outfit, which included Anthony Edwards and team-mate Karl Anthony Towns, who scored 50 points.

    The team have also agreed a two-year contract extension with guard Mike Conley Jr., according to reports. He had been set for free agency at the end of the season.

    Finch is now hoping he will find a focused team in Minnesota as they seek to build on a superb start to the year.

    "We've just got to try to pick up where we left off," he said. "We know the intensity in these games are going to ramp up more and more.

    "We've got to make sure that we maintain that edge. We've done a good job of developing a good offensive rhythm in the past few weeks, so we've got to maintain that.

    "Hold serve at home; we've got a lot of home games coming up here out of the break. There's lots of things we can do to keep furthering ourselves."

    There was an unfamiliar feeling for Finch in the All-Star Game, seeing his team handily beaten by the East in an encounter that drew criticism for its lack of competitive play.

    The format may no longer be widely popular, but Finch certainly enjoyed the rare opportunity to coach players like LeBron James and Stephen Curry.

    "Looking around the locker room, there's probably 12 first-ballot Hall of Famers in there," he said. "It's something I'll remember forever."

    The Timberwolves return against the Milwaukee Bucks at Target Center on Friday.

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.