It’s crystal-ball time as Bulls try to make a play-in push
With only 12 games left in the regular season, the Bulls are in must-win mode if they want to play a meaningful game in May. Unfortunately, the schedule is unforgiving.
The miniseries games have been fairly kind to the Bulls.
In late December, they waltzed into the nation’s capital and beat the Wizards in both games. Former Bulls forward Otto Porter Jr. even had a 28-point outburst in Game 2.
Then in early February, Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau returned to his old stomping grounds and earned a split in Chicago after two very physical games.
A few days later, the Bulls were off to Disney to see then-Magic center Nikola Vucevic score a career-high 43 points against them, but they prevailed in the rematch a night later.
The sample size is small but solid.
It had better be.
“It’s a must-win game for us [Monday], so we have to come out ready to compete,’’ guard Coby White said. “We know that.’’
They also know that they’ve put themselves in must-win mode for the last 12 games if they’re to make the play-in tournament.
One major problem is the schedule. As of Sunday, the Bulls have only six victories against teams at .500 or better. Of the 12 games they have left, nine are against teams that are above .500.
Of the 12 games the Wizards — whom the Bulls are chasing for that last play-in spot — have left, six are against teams that are .500 or better.
The path will not be easy, starting Monday against the Heat:
At Miami — The Bulls used their size to overcome a 20-point halftime deficit, so there’s a blueprint for the rematch. Considering the Heat’s inconsistency, give the Bulls this much-needed win as they head to the Big Apple. Win — 26-35 record.
At New York — No NBA team is playing better than Thibodeau’s blue-collar Knicks crew. Physicality has been Bulls kryptonite all season and will be again on Wednesday. Loss — 26-36.
Milwaukee — The Bucks haven’t lost a division game all season and won’t start with the team that hasn’t beaten them since Dec. 26, 2017, when Nikola Mirotic went off for 26 points. Loss — 26-37.
At Atlanta — The hope is Zach LaVine could be back for this game, and Trae Young (ankle) won’t be. That’s a lot of hope against a team the Bulls haven’t had much success against this season. Loss — 26-38.
Philadelphia — The 76ers are mortal on the road and always seem to be undermanned when they play the Bulls, but Joel Embiid & Co. are chasing the Nets for the top seed. Loss — 26-39.
At Charlotte — The Hornets are one of the few postseason-bound teams the Bulls have handled, and that trend continues. Win — -27-39.
Boston — The win over the enigmatic Celtics on April 19 was solid. But Boston has more on the line as it tries to get right going into the playoffs. Loss — 27-40.
At Detroit — The Pistons have been in tank mode for months, and the Bulls help them with the process. Win — 28-40.
Brooklyn — Who knows who even plays for the most talented/strangest collection of players on the planet. The Bulls beat the Nets short-handed once, but not this time. Loss — 28-41.
Toronto — Like the Bulls, the Raptors are fighting for a play-in game. The Bulls will be looking for the season sweep and will get it. Win — 29-41.
At Brooklyn — The Nets hopefully will have their fate decided and will do what they seemingly do best: rest guys. Win — 30-41.
Milwaukee — Like the Nets, the Bucks are in R&R mode, getting ready for the playoffs. Win — 31-41.
The Bulls finish a game behind the Wizards, missing out on the last play-in spot and praying for lottery nirvana.