That's One Way to Clinch, Mixed Emotions, No Rest for DeRozan, Vucevic's Hard Foul, and Other Bulls Bullets

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That’s One Way to Clinch, Mixed Emotions, No Rest for DeRozan, Vucevic’s Hard Foul, and Other Bulls Bullets

Chicago Bulls

I can’t say I’ve ever received a surprise party while in the shower, but I have to imagine the Bulls clinching a first-round playoff series last night felt something like that (Michael: Okay … go on.)

On the one hand, it’s a kind gesture. There was a lot of hard work that went into making it happen, and it’s always sweet when people come together to celebrate your mere existence.

On the other hand, having all those people surprise you while you’re in an absurdly vulnerable and naked state would be highly unfortunate. I’d want to be thankful for the fact that all these people went out of their way to show up, but could they not have picked a better time? Yeesh. (Michael: LOL … This metaphor was a doozy)

•   As the Chicago Bulls were swept for the third time this season by a top-4 team in the Eastern Conference, they also clinched their first playoff berth since 2017. To say my immediate emotions were mixed would probably be an understatement, and I got the sense that was also the tone at the postgame press conferences:

“It’s great for all of us. Happy to have done it,” Nikola Vucevic told reporters after a 127-106 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks. “It was our goal at the beginning of the year to get there and see after that what was going to happen. We’re happy we achieved that. Obviously, it would have been nice to have it happen on a better night, but for sure I’m happy and it means a lot for sure to us the players, the organization, the fans, the city. Hopefully, we can continue to do well.”

•   I whole-heartedly believe Vucevic is happy to crack the postseason, but his conversation with reporters felt particularly glum considering the discouraging performance he left on the floor. The All-Star big man returned to his early-season form with a 3-19 effort from the field, which also included little productivity on the defensive end against Brook Lopez, who dropped a team-high 28 points. Vucevic made just ONE of his eight shots that came within 9ft of the basket. He scored just 7 points in his 26 minutes of action, which tied his second-lowest scoring effort of the season.

•   I’ve been a Vucevic backer this entire year. Players have down seasons, and I do believe Vucevic has plenty left in the tank. With that said, what we saw last night is an unacceptable performance, particularly with the playoffs right around the corner. Almost all can be forgiven from Vucevic’s up-and-down year if he can play like the experienced and All-Star-caliber big man we know he is in the postseason. However, outings like last night make it extremely difficult to expect he can flip a switch by next week. For the Bulls to have any semblance of a competitive first-round series, they will need Vucevic to simply hit his wide-open 3-pointers and convert those easy bunnies in the restricted area. If he can’t even manage that, it’s hard not to picture a sweep is on the horizon.

•   Easily the most cheer-inducing thing Vucevic did last night: Give Grayson Allen a small taste of his own medicine.

•   The big man told reporters after the game he didn’t mean to whack Allen in the way he did, and I tend to believe him. Brook Lopez was a big part of that contact, pushing Vucevic into Allen’s hip during the drive to the rim. In no world was it anywhere similar to what Allen did to Alex Caruso, but I understand why it still got the United Center on its feet.

•   I guess Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer didn’t agree with Vucevic’s assessment. Too bad, so sad. 

•   Now that the Bulls have a top-6 seed coming their way, the organization will get to seriously consider resting their top talent over the next three games. Zach LaVine already took a seat for last night’s meeting, and I wouldn’t be too shocked to see him do it again in the coming days. Head coach Billy Donovan was asked about how he will approach the rest of the week, and he suggested it will be about balancing health and growth:

“First and foremost, without question, is the guys health. Does anybody feel like – health wise – they need something. But the other thing too is I just think I don’t want to miss out … where you just sit there and just say, ‘we’re going to sit these guys and not play them and we’re not going to necessarily worry about growing or getting better and improving against some good teams coming up.”

•   I understand where Donovan is coming from. He’s probably looking at this team with a sense of competitive concern, but he also might feel like some of that concern stems from a lack of health. At the end of the day, I would like to see this team grab a couple more wins before the end of the week in hopes of gaining at least some momentum heading into next week. However, if sitting guys like LaVine and Caruso will make them feel that much better for a first-round series, then that could prove to be more valuable than momentum.

•   All we know for certain is DeMar DeRozan has zero interest in taking a night off:

No. I don’t need no time off,” DeRozan laughed. “For me, I hate sitting too long. I love playing, so I’m going to continue to play this thing out, continue to find a better rhythm for us team wise. And, hopefully, we’re going in the right direction come next week.

You’re not supposed to feel good. I hate feeling too good. Some of my greatest games come from feeling like I got jumped by 10 media people, so it comes with the job I guess.”

•   DID WE JUST BECOME BEST FRIENDS!? 

•   I chuckled … and then I chucked some more.

•   Good.


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Author: Elias Schuster

Elias Schuster is the Lead Bulls Writer at Bleacher Nation. You can follow him on Twitter @Schuster_Elias.