Fri, Mar 27, 2015 - Page 20 News List

Bulls down the Raptors to tighten grip on third seed

AFP and AP, TORONTO

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 the Toronto Raptors, who nevertheless secured their own playoff berth.

Jimmy Butler, making his second start since missing 11 games with an elbow injury, had 23 points and Pau Gasol scored 18 as 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 the Charlotte Hornets, 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 minutes, 47 seconds 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,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. “We had a lot of guys step up.”

Chicago’s Frenchman 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 1.5 games.

The Raptors, who have now dropped 13 of their past 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.

Meanwhile, the Celtics are trying to hold off the Indiana Pacers, the Brooklyn Nets and the Charlotte Hornets for the eighth and final post-season spot.

The Indiana Pacers 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 over the hosts.

Hill added nine assists and seven rebounds for Indiana, who ended a six-game skid.

The Brooklyn 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.

Kyrie Irving scored 24 points, while Kevin Love added 22 points and 10 rebounds as the Cleveland Cavaliers rolled to a 111-89 victory over the Grizzlies in Memphis.

LeBron James finished with 20 points, Timofey Mozgov added 14 and J.R. Smith 13 to help Cleveland win their fourth straight and eighth in nine.

Cleveland shot 51 percent and were 14 of 34 from three-point range.

Marc Gasol led Memphis with 18 points, while Beno Udrih had 15.

Houston’s James Harden had 25 points and 10 assists, while Dwight Howard had seven rebounds and a block on Anthony Davis on his return from a two-month absence as the Rockets handed the New Orleans Pelicans their fourth straight loss, 95-93.

Davis had 24 points and 14 rebounds for the Pelicans, but uncharacteristically missed eight free throws, including one that could have pulled New Orleans to 94-93 with seven seconds left.

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