CHICAGO – A crucial jump ball went the Toronto Raptors’ way in the closing seconds of their 101-98 victory over the Chicago Bulls at United Center. But it came at a price for center Jonas Valanciunas.
The Toronto center went for the ball as it squirted out of the jump between teammate Rudy Gay and Bulls forward Carlos Boozer. But as he reached, dropping his head, he banged into Gay’s shoulder — hard.
The final 9.1 seconds ticked off without incident, but Valanciunas went straight to Toronto’s bench area and sat in one of the chairs. Various members of the team’s training and medical staff huddled around him. As they gingerly probed around his neck, it wasn’t initially clear if he might be checked for concussion symptoms. But no, this was what Raptors GM Bryan Colangelo called a “whiplash-like” injury.
Long after the final horn, as fans exited and cleanup crews began their work, Valanciunas was fitted with a protective collar and escorted from the court. He was taken to nearby Rush Presbyterian Hospital as a precaution and to undergo a more thorough exam.
The 6-foot-11 Valanciunas had eight points and three rebounds in 23:17 against Chicago, including a throwd-own slam that made it 93-85 with 5:13 left that temporarily slowed the Bulls’ comeback attempt.
The fifth pick in the 2011 Draft, Valanciunas has been finishing strong. He was named Eastern Conference rookie of the month in March and had scored in double figures in 12 straight games prior to Tuesday. Since the All-Star break, he had hit 57.9 percent of his field goal attempts and 82.8 percent of his free throws.
Valanciunas was kept overnight for observation at nearby Rush Presbyterian hospital while the rest of the Raptors headed home. Test results were pending. Toronto’s next game is Friday against the Bulls at Air Canada Centre.