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Williams scores 23, Bulls beat Raptors 118-95

Rookie Patrick Williams had a career-best 23 points to lead the Chicago Bulls past the Toronto Raptors, 118-95 Sunday night.

Zach LaVine scored 15 to help the Bulls end a two-game slide. Coby White had 13 points and Wendell Carter Jr. added 12 points and 11 rebounds after the two were removed from the starting five for the first time this campaign.

Chicago kept a double-digit lead for most of the second half and enjoyed a nice cushion after Denzel Valentine made three 3-pointers during a 9-0 run that pushed the lead to 96-78 with eight minutes remaining. Toronto, which had won 12 consecutive versus Chicago, never got closer than 11 the rest of the night.

Norman Powell scored 32 points as the depleted Raptors, down five regulars, lost their fifth straight. Kyle Lowry had 20 points and eight assists before being ejected in the final minutes after picking up his second technical foul for arguing with officials.

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Lowry stated he didn’t think the pressure of fighting to stay in the playoff hunt — a new experience for the Raptors after several seasons of riding in the upper half of the Eastern Conference standings — or even his actions led to his ejection.

“I really didn’t do anything,” he said. “Sometimes I guess egos get bigger. … This is very unconventional but we’ve just got to find a way to get through it.”

Chicago coach Billy Donovan hinted at lineup changes a day earlier and followed through Sunday as Thaddeus Young and Tomas Satoransky each made their first starts of the campaign, bumping White and Carter from the opening five. Each of the new starters finished with 10 points.

Donovan, disappointed with his regular starters’ lapses after they returned from last weekend’s All-Star break, said the move was hardly meant to punish White and Carter — or set in stone.

“I really appreciate Coby and Wendell making sacrifices for the team,” Donovan said. “It’s not like those guys are out of the rotation or not important pieces of the team.

“It’s more about trying to get a consistent combination through 48 minutes.”

Carter was a reserve most of last season and didn’t seem to take the lineup shift personally.

“It was fun mixing the lineups,” he said. “It was really nothing new to me. I just knew I had to come in and be aggressive. … (The change) had to be made and it is what it is. We weren’t clicking on all cylinders like we’re supposed to.”

The Bulls took the lead for good late in the opening quarter and went on a 9-0 run near the end of the first half to take a 58-49 lead to the break.

Carter, a starter in all 25 games he’d played this season, made his first four shots after entering the game late in the first.

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Butler leads Heat to 4th straight win, 116-108 over Raptors

Jimmy Butler went to the foul line in the final moments of the fourth quarter Wednesday night, talking and smiling the entire time.

There’s a lot for Butler and the Miami Heat to be happy about right now.

Butler scored 27 points, 14 of them in the final quarter, and the Heat won their fourth straight game by topping the Toronto Raptors 116-108 on Wednesday night.

Butler also had 10 assists and eight rebounds for the Heat, plus a season-high three 3-pointers — two of them in the final minutes. Bam Adebayo had 19 points and 12 rebounds for Miami, Duncan Robinson added 17 points and Goran Dragic scored 15 in his return from an ankle injury.

“We’re just out there having fun,” Adebayo said.

It was the eighth win in the last 11 matches for the Heat, who started the season 7-14.

“Everybody that played really contributed at different points in the game,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “And then Jimmy’s game was the quintessential, all-around winning basketball game.”

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Kyle Lowry, returning from a thumb injury, scored 24 for Toronto. 

Fred VanVleet also had 24 for the Raptors, Norman Powell scored 17 and OG Anunoby had 14 for Toronto.

“I thought we outplayed them,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse stated. “I thought we outplayed them in almost all facets. … The ball just bounced their way a lot.”

Powell made a 3-pointer as the shot clock was expiring to get Toronto within 100-98 before Butler had the game’s next three plays of any significance — a 3-pointer, a steal on the ensuing possession and a layup to push Miami’s lead back to seven.

Another 3-pointer by Butler with 3:23 left restored the seven-point edge, and Miami kept the lead the rest of the way.

“He’s our leader and we need him,” Dragic said.

Lowry scored 12 of Toronto’s first 20 points in the opening 6½ minutes, and he made a 31-footer over Miami’s zone midway through the second quarter to tie it at 48.

The next 2:51 belonged to Miami.

The Heat went on a 17-2 spurt in that time, six players scoring during the run, to open a 15-point lead and took a 66-56 edge into halftime.

Toronto scored the first 10 points of the second half, erasing the deficit, but a 17-6 answer by the Heat helped them take a 92-85 lead into the fourth. And the Raptors never led at any point in the final 31 1/2 minutes.

“It was fun to be back out there with the fellas,” said Lowry, who acknowledged that his thumb was hurting at times after contact Wednesday. “We gave it a tough fight, but we didn’t pull it out at the end.”

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