The Chicago Bulls now have a three-game cushion over the Toronto Raptors in the East standings.
Despite a career performance from Chris Boucher, who set new career bests with 38 points and 19 rebounds, the Raptors didn't have enough as they suffered a 122-113 loss to the Bulls Thursday night.
Boucher, whose previous high was 30 points, did all he could, as did Pascal Siakam, who had 27 points and eight rebounds. The two were the only Raptors to finish in double figures. The Bulls, on the other hand, had seven players finish in double figures and were led by Zach LaVine, who finished with 22 points, 13 assists and three steals.
For more on how it went down, here are some takeaways from the buzzer.
1. Shorthanded Raptors
With Jalen Harris, Rodney Hood, Kyle Lowry, Patrick McCaw and Fred VanVleet all out due to injury, DeAndre' Bembry serving a one-game suspension and Paul Watson in the league's health and safety protocols, the Raptors entered the night with just eight active players.
Malachi Flynn, Gary Trent Jr., OG Anunoby, Siakam and Boucher earned the start, while Aron Baynes, Stanley Johnson and Yuta Watanabe were the three available reserves.
Needless to say, it was a tall task.
The difference in depth was evident as Chicago's reserve trio of Lauri Markkanen (18), Coby White (15) and Daniel Theis (14) outscored Toronto's second unit 47-20.
2.Boucher's big night
It was a night to remember for the Montreal native, who was extremely active from the game's opening moments.
In just the seventh start of his NBA career, Boucher made his mark and then some, entering the halftime break with 14 points and nine rebounds, shaking the early foul trouble that impacted his aggression. The second half was even more, as he scored 11 points in the third to bring his total up to 25 points through three frames.
.@chrisboucher hoopin' tonight- Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) April 9, 2021
25 Pts | 13 Reb pic.twitter.com/B3nRAn42IV
As the Raptors looked to engineer a late-game run, Boucher remained aggressive, tacking on another 13 points in the frame to finish with 38 points (on 14-for-24 shooting) to go along with 19 rebounds, nine of which came on the offensive end.
The team was shorthanded but Boucher left it all on the floor.
BONJOOOOOUR!- NBA Canada (@NBACanada) April 9, 2021
A CAREER-NIGHT for Chris Boucher 🇨🇦 as he drops 38 POINTS & grabs 19 REBOUNDS against Chicago! 👏 #WeTheNorth pic.twitter.com/TtH135Txtl
3. The bigger picture
Toronto entered the night two full games behind Chicago for the Eastern Conference's final play-in spot.
With a loss, the Raptors now trail by three full games and are down 0-2 in their season series with the Bulls. With the teams set to face just one more time in this shortened season, Chicago has clinched the season series meaning Toronto must finish with a higher win percentage to earn a higher seed in the playoff race.
|8||New York Knicks||25||27||.481||1.0|
Standings through games played on April 8. Seeds 7-10 will participate in the play-in tournament, beginning on Tuesday, May 18.
4. Chicago's All-Star duo
The Bulls didn't motion to acquire Vucevic at the trade deadline to remain lottery-bound.
They wanted to win now.
For the first time 2016, the Bulls have a pair of current All-Stars in LaVine and Vucevic, and the duo impressed in this one. LaVine thrived as a scorer and playmaker, tying Vucevic for a team-high 22 points but also dishing out a game-high 13 assists, one shy of a career-high set in his rookie season.
Studs 🤩 pic.twitter.com/z4JVDH3DdY- Chicago Bulls (@chicagobulls) April 9, 2021
Vucevic, on the other hand, pulled down seven rebounds and dished out four assists to go along with his team-high 22.
As the two get more familiar with one another, the Bulls will become a scarier opponent.
5. First career start for Flynn
After seeing just 10.3 minutes of playing time - and a number of DNP-CDs - in the first three months of the season, the rookie entered Thursday night having averaged 32.6 minutes over the Raptors last three games.
The suspension of Bembry meant that the 22-year-old would be making the first start of his young career.
According to TSN's Kate Beirness, Flynn received the advice to "just be ready for the next opportunity like this," from his vets in Lowry and VanVleet. For the third consecutive game, Flynn saw over 30 minutes of playing time but struggled at times, finishing with nine points (on 3-for-11 shooting) to go with eight assists and three rebounds.
6. What's next?
The Raptors hit the road for a two-game trip this weekend as they face the Cleveland Cavaliers on Saturday before travelling to New York to take on the Knicks Sunday.
See you then.
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