Just as you thought that nothing could top the overtime game between the Los Angeles Lakers and Minnesota Timberwolves in the first night of the play-in tournament, the four teams on the second day decided that they would not be outdone.
The Chicago Bulls, playing away from home, took on the Toronto Raptors and their rowdy crowd and managed to complete an unlikely comeback from a 19-point second half deficit to silence the Toronto crowd and leave the Raptors shellshocked.
Led by Zach LaVine’s 39 points, the Bulls turned it on in the fourth quarter to outscore the Raptors 37-24 in the final period, leading them to a 109-105 win and a date with the Miami Heat to see who gets to face the Milwaukee Bucks in the first round. LaVine shot 12 of 22 from the field and 13 of 15 from the charity stripe and contributed six boards, three assists and a steal during his performance.
DeMar DeRozan also put up a good all-around performance with 23 points, seven rebounds, three assists and two blocks while shooting 10 of 19 from the field. Nikola Vucevic manned the paint and helped greatly with a line of 14 points, 13 rebounds, four assists, a steal and a block. The three leading men proved just enough, as only Patrick Williams managed to also score in double figures for Chicago.
The Bulls also got plenty of help from DeRozan’s daughter, who was vocal on the sidelines and may have distracted Pascal Siakam enough to brick two of three free throws when he had a chance to tie the game at the line.
The second game of the night between the Oklahoma City Thunder and New Orleans Pelicans didn’t disappoint, either. The first half was a strong battle that saw Lu Dort score 20 points to keep the Thunder afloat while Shai Gilgeous-Alexander had a slow start.
The Pelicans, on the other hand, had four players score in double figures in the first half to take a 63-57 halftime lead. The third quarter ended up being a dogfight at first, but the Thunder grinded their way to be the ones entering the fourth quarter with a 96-87 lead. When Lu Dort slowed down a bit in the second half, Gilgeous-Alexander and Josh Giddey were ready to take over, leading the Thunder to a big 39-24 scoring advantage in the third quarter.
The Pelicans roared back to life in the fourth quarter and took the lead at 101-100 with just under eight minutes left to play. However, just after taking the lead, Josh Richardson was called for a flagrant foul after elbowing Giddey in the groin. The two shots and possession allowed the Thunder to retake the lead briefly.
The Pelicans and Thunder went basket for basket from the five minute mark, with the Pelicans holding a 114-113 lead with 59.8 seconds left in the game. Gilgeous-Alexander gave the Thunder back the lead with a drive with 28.3 seconds left in the game.
Ingram couldn’t answer on the other end, forcing the Pelicans to foul Giddey with 12 seconds left on the clock, allowing him to push the Thunder lead to 117-114.
The Pelicans used their last timeout and managed to get free throws for Ingram, who missed the first free throw to preserve a 117-115 lead for the Thunder. The Pelicans managed to block a layup from Gilgeous-Alexander, but weren’t able to secure the defensive rebound, which allowed Dort to take two free throws and sink both. Ingram then made a three to make it 119-118 with 2.8 seconds left. SGA sank those two, and then CJ McCollum threw the ball away which led to the final free throws for the 123-118 scoreline.
Gilgeous-Alexander finished the game with 32 points, five rebounds, three assists, three steals and a block. Giddey narrowly missed a triple-double with 31 points, nine rebounds and 10 assists. They’ll now be raring to take on the Minnesota Timberwolves.