Clock is ticking on Bulls’ playoff push with only 23 games left

Zach LaVine knows the team’s IQ got a bit higher with the addition of Patrick Beverley, and, more important, the Bulls added a spark as they try to chase down a playoff spot.

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Zach LaVine

Zach LaVine knows the Bulls don’t have a lot of time left to turn the 2022-23 season around, but with a healthy roster and veteran guard Patrick Beverley now in the mix, it needs to start Friday against the Nets.

Charles Rex Arbogast/AP

Time is a luxury the Bulls no longer have.

With only 23 regular-season games left after the All-Star break, the Bulls, two games behind a play-in spot, have no real identity and even less momentum thanks to a six-game skid.

The plan, however, remains the same: make a push for the playoffs.

Is it a smart plan? Not really. The percentages say the Bulls have a better shot of landing a top-four lottery pick than making the Eastern Conference playoffs, but math went out the window back in September when executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas set the bar at making the second round of the postseason.

And with the Bulls adding point guard Patrick Beverley this week, there’s no walking it back now.

“At this point in the season, where we’re trying to get back to where we need [to be], we need a spark,’’ guard Zach LaVine said. ‘‘We needed anything we could. Pat is somebody who can fill a lot of different roles, so we’re just happy to have him.’’

But adding Beverley doesn’t mean the organization can start printing playoff tickets.

“We’ll see,’’ LaVine said. “I mean, coming to a new team in the middle of the season is never easy, I don’t care how veteran you are. But Pat is such a high-IQ player. He just goes out there and plays hard, so he’s going to make an impact regardless.’’

At least the Bulls will have health on their side when they host the Nets on Friday.

DeMar DeRozan, Alex Caruso, Derrick Jones Jr. and Goran Dragic participated in both practice days, and even Javonte Green (surgery on right knee) has started running. He’s a few weeks away from returning to full practice mode, coach Billy Donovan said.

Now it’s Donovan’s job to figure out which players he can rely on to start and finish games. Admittedly, his rotations against the Nets might be completely different from the ones he uses two days later against the Wizards.

Donovan has to figure it all out on the go.

“We’ve just got to see where our team is from a health standpoint and who is going to be able to play,’’ Donovan said.

“No, you don’t [have a lot of time]. Again, this [Beverley move] came about as soon as you could possibly do it, right? It wasn’t like he had been sitting at home for two months. A lot of this trade-deadline stuff and the buyout market happened relatively soon, so it’s hard to sit there and say you wish this happened several weeks or months ago.’’

The Bulls do have some immediate say on how quickly they can climb out of their hole.

Besides facing the Nets and Wizards right out of the gate, they go on a two-city trip to take on the Raptors and Pistons.

Those are four games against Eastern Conference teams that are must-wins, four chances for the Bulls to clean things up on both ends of the floor, starting with holding leads and closing teams out.

As far as Beverley was concerned, the biggest issue he saw from afar was closing out games.

“Just gotta learn how to finish,’’ Beverley said. “You got problems like that, those are good problems. You can adjust those. It doesn’t take a lot of cooks in the kitchen to fix those types of problems.’’

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