As Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg began to empty his bench midway through the fourth quarter, the only uncertainly that remained — on Monday, at least — was playing out 1,200 miles to the south.
The Bulls had overwhelmed the visiting Orlando Magic from the outset. But as time ticked away on their 122-75 rout at the United Center, Hoiberg and his players had to wait to see whether it would be enough to land them a spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
As it turns out, it wasn’t — not for at least a couple of more nights, anyway. The Miami Heat’s 124-121 overtime victory against the Cleveland Cavaliers prevented the Bulls from clinching a playoff berth.
Now the Bulls must wait until Wednesday, when a home victory against the Brooklyn Nets will secure a playoff spot. If they lose, they still can get in if the Heat falls at home to the Washington Wizards.
‘‘What you want to be able to do is to control your own destiny,’’ guard Dwyane Wade said after scoring 13 points against the Magic. ‘‘That’s what we have the ability to do. If we don’t win the game, we don’t deserve to be in.’’
The Bulls have had their share of problems against the NBA’s also-rans this season, but they quickly served notice they wouldn’t fall into that trap against the Magic. All five starters reached double figures, led by 18 points by Robin Lopez, in a game the Bulls controlled from the start.
After road losses last week to the New York Knicks and the Nets, the Bulls’ effort against the Magic was much-needed.
In the last couple of days, Hoiberg’s message to his players had been simple: Control what you can control, and let everything else fall where it may.
That’s the mentality the Bulls played with against the Magic, and it’s the one they’ll need Wednesday against the Nets.
‘‘It better [carry over],’’ Hoiberg said. ‘‘We’re playing a team on Wednesday that is playing their best ball of the season.’’
The Bulls have to do the same. Their rout of the Magic, which represented their biggest margin of victory this season, was a step in the right direction. They jumped on the Magic early and never took their foot off the gas.
The Bulls now have one more game to achieve a goal they set before the season.
‘‘When you come into the season, your goal is to make the playoffs,’’ Wade said. ‘‘That’s what our goal has continued to be through it all, whether we were playing well, playing bad, whatever the heck was going on. At the end of the day, you want to put yourself in position to make the playoffs. Once you do that, a whole other season starts.’’
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