Bulls continue to ugly up games as they move closer to play-in spot

It wasn’t artwork by any means, but considering the must-win attitude the Bulls have to embrace if they want to be relevant by the end of the regular season, they’ll take the win over the Wizards on Sunday. Grime and all.

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Bulls guard Coby White, left, drives against Washington Wizards guard Jordan Goodwin

It wasn’t the prettiest game the Bulls played on Sunday, but it’s a style they need to continue embracing if they want to make a run into a play-in spot of the Eastern Conference.

Nam Y. Huh/AP

Crisp passes and three-pointers were rare for the Bulls and Wizards on Sunday at the United Center.

After all, there’s a reason both teams are battling for the final play-in spot in the Eastern Conference, and it isn’t because of their aesthetically pleasing style of play.

This was about two below-average squads diving on each other for loose balls, a few chippy elbows, a technical foul here and there and a whole lot of grime?

The Bulls proved to be grimier, and that was a good thing.

Thanks to a game-high 29 points from DeMar DeRozan, the Bulls won their second consecutive game after the All-Star break, beating the Wizards 102-82.

It still didn’t get the Bulls (28-33) out of the 11th spot, but it did move them a half-game behind the Wizards (28-32) for the 10th and final play-in spot.

Considering the ups and downs of the season, they’ll take it.

Ugly basketball? They’ll take that, too.

“I still think we can be better offensively,’’ Bulls coach Billy Donovan said. “We have to find ugly ways to win games because [Sunday] we didn’t shoot it well. When we’re not great offensively, we have to find other ways to win.’’

The other ways they found were scoring 25 points off 16 Wizards turnovers, holding the Wizards to a season-low 82 points (15 in the fourth quarter) and making sure three-pointers were contested. Washington shot just 6-for-28 (21.4%) from deep.

“Doing the right thing, making each game count, playing the right way and playing for each other,’’ guard Zach LaVine said of the team’s latest performances. “We’re just doing everything the right way.

“We play defense like that every game, I think we’ll be all right. Just effort and energy. Holding people accountable and going out there with the same mentality, and even if you make a mistake, move on to the next play and do it better.’’

It’s that accountability where newly acquired Patrick Beverley has helped.

While the veteran guard didn’t have the best game statistically — he went scoreless on three shots — he did get the Bulls to calm down in the fourth quarter and into offensive sets that helped put the struggling Wizards away.

“He’s great, just the communication part between he and I,” Donovan said of Beverley’s second game with his hometown team. “We’re always talking about, ‘OK, what do we want to flow into here? What do we want to run?’ He’s got a real good handle on that. He’s got a really good voice where he can command the ball and say, ‘Let’s get to these spots, let’s execute what we’re doing right now.’ ”

That was a big reason why the Bulls took a seven-point lead into the fourth quarter and turned it into a blowout, outscoring the Wizards 21-10 in the final nine minutes.

But the work is far from over.

Because of the six-game losing streak going into the break, the Bulls are in must-win mode for the final 21 regular-season games. The next challenge is Tuesday in Toronto.

“We have to,” LaVine said of holding onto that grimy mindset. “We have no choice but to. That’s what we’re looking to do. Taking each game one at a time and looking at that as a must-win. See where it takes us.”

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