Bulls beat Brooklyn and return to postseason play in the East

It won’t happen anytime soon.

Definitely not in the wake of beating Brooklyn’s junior-varsity squad 112-73 on Wednesday to crawl into the last spot of the Eastern Conference playoffs with a 41-41 record.

Bulls general manager Gar Forman has more tact than that.

But the next time Forman feels pushed into a corner or his competency comes into question, he’ll play the playoff card and let everyone know that his franchise has reached the postseason eight of the last nine seasons.

No titles, not even a Finals appearance, but sustained mediocrity at its finest.

Thanks to Jimmy Butler’s 25 points, as well as a Nets organization that made the decision to sit six players so it could “evaluate’’ the depth of a 20-win roster, the Bulls returned to the playoffs after missing out last season in Fred Hoiberg’s rookie year as coach.

With the Pacers beating the Hawks, the Bulls stayed in the No. 8 spot and will head to Boston to take on the top-seeded Celtics on Sunday in Game 1. They split the regular-season series 2-2.

Not bad for a team that looked dead in the water about three weeks ago.

“Looks can be very deceiving,’’ Butler said with a grin after the victory. “We’re not worried about who we’re playing. We’ve got to focus on ourselves, play the best Bulls basketball that we can.

“We’re in there. It’s all about who’s playing the best basketball at the right time.’’

Which the Bulls are doing, winning seven of their last nine to get to this point.

“I don’t think the goal here is just to make the playoffs,’’ Butler said. “We want to win. That’s what we talked about at the beginning of the year. I think we all did our job to get us into the playoffs. Now it’s about winning some games.’’

Meanwhile, the big loser on the night was the Heat, who finished tied with the Bulls but lost out on the tiebreaker.

Almost lost in the hoopla was the fact that Dwyane Wade will be back in the playoffs, while his former team missed out.

Wade left the Heat this offseason after 13 years, joining the Bulls as a free agent, but playoff hopes looked dim after he fractured his right elbow March 15 and was expected to miss the rest of the regular season.

Wade told Butler to do whatever he could to will the team to the playoffs so that he could return.

Butler did just that, carrying the Bulls to a 7-4 record without Wade, then welcoming the three-time champ back for the last three games.

Butler averaged 26.4 points, 7.6 assists and six rebounds over his last 10 games, including a triple-double in a win over the 76ers.

“I didn’t know how good [Butler] was,’’ Wade said. “I think we all are seeing the evolution of Jimmy Butler. I can’t say anybody, even Jimmy, knew that he would be this player right now. The biggest thing that surprised me is he’s a clutch player. For a guy who hasn’t had a lot of clutch moments in his career, he’s as clutch as it gets. Every time it’s a big shot, it seems like he makes it.’’

Follow me on Twitter @suntimes_hoops.
Email: jcowley@suntimes.com

RELATED STORIES

Nets coach Kenny Atkinson defends decision to rest starters

Rondo or not, Bulls ready for last chance to earn playoff berth


Stories from around the web you may like