Bulls play long game, sit three starters in Dallas

With the No. 10 seed — and the final play-in spot — locked up, the Bulls sat DeMar DeRozan, Zach LaVine and Patrick Beverley against the Mavericks to give them a rest.

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DeMar DeRozan

Veteran forward DeMar DeRozan was one of three Bulls starters to sit out the game in Dallas on Friday, as the team prepares for Wednesday’s play-in game.

Rick Bowmer/AP

With the Bulls locked into the No. 10 seed and final Eastern Conference play-in spot after Wednesday’s loss to the Bucks, coach Billy Donovan was more than flirting with the idea of sitting some starters against the Mavericks.

By Friday afternoon, he was married to it.

Guards Zach LaVine and Patrick Bev-erley and forward DeMar DeRozan were held out of the game in Dallas to allow them to heal up and prepare for the regular-season finale against the Pistons on Sunday, followed by the fight for a playoff berth.

Guard Alex Caruso (foot) got the nod to play but with a limited workload.

Resting LaVine, Beverley and DeRozan didn’t come as much of a surprise. LaVine said the medical staff was already running that plan by him after the Bucks game.

“We tried to press the envelope [Wednesday], see what we could do,” he said. “I always want to play.”

He’ll get his chance this weekend and should love the opponent. In his three previous games against the Pistons this season, LaVine has averaged 38 points while shooting 65% from the field and 54.2% from three-point range. It’ll be quite the warmup heading into a one-game, loser-goes-home showdown against the Raptors on Wednesday.

“My feeling is they have to play some against Detroit unless, obviously, someone has an injury,” Donovan said. “To take two games off where they are so used to playing, I think that rhythm is important. I’m not saying they have to play their normal rotation, but they’ve got to be out there, I would think, unless medical feels physically it would do a lot of good if they didn’t play [the Pistons] game.”

Don’t expect to see the starters on the court very long against the Pistons. It could easily be a first-half showcase, with the Bulls then having Monday and Tuesday to practice and get some scrimmage runs in.

Considering what Caruso has gone through with his mid-foot sprain, as well as the hip/thigh that has been bothering DeRozan since January, it’s better to be cautious than sorry.

“It’s always tricky because you want to find and keep a rhythm, and you don’t want to feel you are having too much rest, have rust going into a one-game elimination,” DeRozan said. “It is tricky, but I never try to think past tomorrow.”

MIRROR, MIRROR . . .

Statistically, guard Coby White took minor steps forward in his game this season, but the eye test says he’s playing the best basketball of his career.

Besides adding muscle that has allowed him to play more physically on both ends, he has improved both his decision-making and ball-handling.

“Playing in tight spaces, setting up pick-and-rolls, trusting my handle,” White said. “Being able to break defenders down more. Being able to create plays off the bounce and not needing that screen all the time or not needing that closeout all the time.

“It just went to me looking in the mirror in the summer. I took into consideration what [executive vice president of basketball operations] Arturas [Karnisovas], what [general manager] Marc [Eversley], what Billy said in our exit meeting, and [what] Billy’s always told me since he got here: I need to work on my ball-handling.”

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