Bulls clinch a return to the playoffs for the first time since 2017

It came with a loss to Milwaukee, thanks to a Cleveland loss, and there were way more questions than answers moving forward, but the organization was back in the postseason, sitting in the No. 6 seed for now.

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Bulls center Nikola Vucevic drives against Bucks  center Brook Lopez during Tuesday night’s game.

Bulls center Nikola Vucevic drives against Bucks center Brook Lopez during Tuesday night’s game.

David Banks/AP

Technically, yes, the Bulls backed into a guaranteed playoff spot on Tuesday.

So why did it feel more like they actually fell into their first Eastern Conference playoff appearance since 2017?

It seemed like the same type of clumsiness displayed when a chair is pulled out or a door that’s being leaned on is quickly opened.

Awkward and embarrassing.

That’s because on the same night that the Arturas Karnisovas-led front office brought the organization back to the NBA’s “second season,’’ it did so with more questions than answers, thanks to a 127-106 loss to the Bucks at the United Center.

The loss dropped the Bulls to 45-34, but way more concerning, to a combined 0-18 against championship-contending teams in the Bucks, Heat, 76ers, Grizzlies, Suns and Warriors. The Bulls have split with the Celtics so far, with the rubber match coming Wednesday, so to dress it up a bit, make that 1-19 against the league’s elite.

They also fell to the No. 6 seed once again, thanks to the Raptors’ victory against the Hawks.

Then there’s the ongoing health issues.

Point guard Lonzo Ball (left knee) is expected to be ruled out for the rest of the season — playoffs included — later this week, and it’s hard to overlook the problematic left knee of Zach LaVine that once again was giving him issues to start the week.

LaVine not only was held out of the Monday practice and Tuesday shootaround, according to coach Billy Donovan, but also missed the game against the Bucks and was on “day-to-day’’ status with three regular-season games remaining.

“Between Zach and the medical, those guys talking, just seeing where he’s at physically and coming up with a plan,’’ Donovan said of how the team is handling LaVine. “I don’t know where he’ll be at [Wednesday] or where that leaves him. Like I said, it’s more kind of a day-to-day, the next day to see how he’s doing. As competitive as he is, he wants to be out there playing, so I know it bothers him, but I think he’s trying to make good, wise choices.’’

Both the organization and LaVine’s camp want that. Not only to make sure the All-Star is as fresh as the knee allows for the playoffs, but also looking ahead to this summer when he is a free agent and looking for max money.

The expectation, however, was he should be able to gut his way through the postseason because there will be no back-to-backs.

“I didn’t get that at all, like this is at a place where he’s going to need to sit multiple games,’’ Donovan said. “I think it’s more going to be an evaluation of him on a daily basis.’’

The evaluation for the Bulls against the Bucks was a simple one: DeMar DeRozan and everyone else, get out of the way, as the veteran scored 40 points on the defending champs.

It was DeRozan’s 28th 30-plus game of the season. Only Michael Jordan has put up more in a season.

Meanwhile, while Nikola Vucevic struggled on a 3-for-19 shooting night, he did at least show the Bulls don’t forget, picking up a technical for an elbow to the face area of Milwaukee’s Grayson Allen. The same Allen who knocked Alex Caruso out for months with a wrist fracture on a flagrant-2.

“I’m happy for our guys, I’m happy for our organization,’’ Donovan said of the playoff berth. “You want to be playing at that time of the year. A lot of these guys haven’t experienced this.’’

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