CHICAGO (CP) — There wasn’t much Rudy Gay could do except shrug off the collision and hope his teammate wasn’t seriously injured.
The fact that Jonas Valanciunas left the court on a gurney with a neck injury sure did take the shine off a wild win, though.
DeMar DeRozan scored 20 points, and the Toronto Raptors beat the Chicago Bulls 101-98 on Tuesday night.
Gay added 19 but collided with Valanciunas during a scramble in the closing seconds, resulting in a neck injury for the Raptors’ centre and an overnight stay for observation at Chicago’s Rush University Medical Center.
“It’s one of those plays,” Gay said. “That’s what makes the job tough. That’s why everybody can’t do it. Sometimes, things like that happen being aggressive trying to get the ball. He’s an aggressive player, but he just ended up in the wrong spot. We’re hoping that he’s OK. But we all know that anytime anything can happen. We all know that. Look at the Final Four, some of the crazy injuries that happened in that. This is a physical game.”
The injury was part of a wild finish to a wild game in which Toronto allowed a 15-point lead to dwindle to four at halftime. The Raptors regrouped in the third quarter, getting it up to 16, but had to hang on after the Bulls cut it to two near the end of the game.
Nate Robinson nailed a 3-pointer with just under a minute left and Carlos Boozer hit two foul shots with 16.8 seconds remaining to pull Chicago within 99-97.
DeRozan then made two free throws to get the lead up to four, but the Bulls weren’t finished. Robinson hit the first of two free throws with 10.6 seconds left, and after a jump ball following the miss, there was a scramble for the loose ball.
From the floor, Boozer threw it to Robinson. The ball went through the guard’s hands and started to go into the back court. Robinson saved it to avoid the violation then missed a heave at the buzzer.
“I took my eyes off the ball,” Robinson said. “I saw Kirk (Hinrich) to my left wide open. When Booz threw me the ball he threw it kind of fast and I was in pass motion to throw it to Kirk and I took my eyes off of it.”
Right after the tip on the jump ball, Valanciunas’ head hit Gay’s shoulder. He fell backward, immediately grabbing the back of his neck, and he was tended to for several minutes while sitting up on the sideline. He had his neck placed in a brace before being taken away on a gurney.
The Raptors said test results at the hospital were pending late Tuesday night.
“Nobody wants to see their player get carted off, but knowing him, he’s a tough guy and he’ll push through it,” Gay said.
For the fifth-place Bulls, the loss left them just a half-game ahead of Atlanta in the Eastern Conference with five to play. It also damaged their chances of catching Brooklyn, a team they trail by three, for the fourth seed and homecourt advantage in the first round of the playoffs. The Nets beat Philadelphia on Tuesday.
Veteran guard Richard Hamilton returned to Chicago’s rotation after missing more than a month with a back injury, but with Joakim Noah (right foot), Luol Deng (hip), Taj Gibson (sprained left knee) and Derrick Rose (left knee) sidelined, the Bulls struggled on both ends and dropped their second straight game.
Gay shook off a poor performance after matching a season low with four points in Saturday’s loss to Milwaukee.
DeRozan shot 8 of 13. Terrence Ross came off the bench to score 13. Kyle Lowry added 13 points and 10 assists, and the Raptors shot over 51 per cent.
Jimmy Butler led Chicago with a career-high 28 points. Robinson scored 22, and Boozer added 19 points and 11 rebounds.
Hamilton was a surprise addition to the rotation after coach Tom Thibodeau said at the shootaround that he would not play. Instead, he got in 15 minutes and finished with four points after missing the previous 19 games, but Chicago again stumbled badly after falling to Detroit on Sunday.
“We dug ourselves a huge hole at the beginning of the game. It’s hard to claw out of those holes,” Butler said.
The Raptors broke it open midway through the third, scoring 12 straight to turn a four-point lead into a 76-60 advantage.
Gay had seven points during that run, capping it with a 3-pointer with 3:26 left in the quarter, but things got interesting at the end.
“This was a great game here and something that we can build on,” Lowry said.
Notes: Thibodeau dismissed the idea that there’s a rift between the Bulls and Rose’s camp, saying chairman Jerry Reinsdorf was adamant right from the start that the star guard would not rush back. “We’ve made it clear that we don’t want him out there unless he’s comfortable,” Thibodeau said. “So I think he understands that. He’s done his part. We have to do what’s right. I think we are.” … Butler’s previous career-high was 20 points. … The Bulls had won five straight against Toronto. … Hamilton on how he felt: “I felt good. Tonight was actually the first time I really had contact. That was the thing I was worried about.”