With a 124-120 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Sunday night, the Chicago Bulls checked off their 82nd box.
The organization’s 46-36 record finished as its best since the 2014-15 season, which also happens to be the last time the franchise faced its upcoming first-round opponent in the playoffs.
The reigning champion Milwaukee Bucks await later this week. And while I wish I could say I’m confidently optimistic about the upcoming series, I feel a lot more like the meme shared below:
Bring it on, Bucks. pic.twitter.com/5iZvGhgXDZ
— Bleacher Nation Bulls (@BN_Bulls) April 11, 2022
To be honest, I think that image sums up how we should approach the next couple of weeks. No, I don’t recommend full-blown tears, but there should be an overwhelming sense of realism underneath the surface. The fact of the matter is Chicago will enter the first round as the heavy underdogs. This will not only be thanks to the Bucks 2021 Championship banner hanging in the Fiserv Forum, but also due to the team’s heavily discouraging play since the All-Star break. We should recognize that their chances of winning this series are pretty darn slim, and the sooner we accept that, the easier enjoying the ride/learning experience will be.
Now, with that said, feel free to wear your cool shades and point those finger guns. After four-straight seasons of ultra-icky basketball, we should still celebrate this accomplishment and embrace the hope that comes with it. Whether it’s a quick series full of heartbreak or a surprise one full of unforgettable moments, rarely (if ever) is it a bad thing to play postseason basketball. The coaching staff, front office, and players will all learn from everything that is about to transpire.
• The action will start on Sunday in Milwaukee, and I already got my ticket booked! To be sure, the NBA has yet to announce what time tip-off will be, so I’ll be sure to share a post for y’all later when the complete playoff schedule is out.
• ICYMI: The NBA did release the Play-In Tournament schedule last night, which is set to start tomorrow.
— Bleacher Nation Bulls (@BN_Bulls) April 10, 2022
• At this point, it’s pretty useless to sit and sulk about the Bulls’ playoff draw. The post-All-Star break may have felt like a punch in the gut, knee to the groin, and paper cut on the big toe all at once, but the only thing we can do now is let those injuries heal. I look forward to seeing how this group can respond, especially with a much-needed six-day break to prepare and rest. Things are always subject to change, but it doesn’t appear as if any of the players we saw sit last night (minus Lonzo Ball) should be at risk of missing playoff action. Alex Caruso would probably be the biggest concern when we think about his lingering back issue, but Donovan clarified last night that the Bulls’ best defensive player will be on the floor.
Alex Caruso (ailing back) isn't in danger of missing the start of the playoffs, Billy Donovan says.
Caruso wanted to play Friday, but he sat out then and is doing so again tonight.
— Cody Westerlund (@CodyWesterlund) April 10, 2022
• For a team that played some of its best basketball coming out of training camp, I think this next week could help them re-channel some of what they lost in the heap of a ridiculously grueling schedule. They finally have the time to really dive into the lack of ball movement that came with Lonzo Ball’s departure, as well as the glaring issues they have communicating on the defensive end. While I’m sure they will scout the heck out of this Bucks squad, I honestly think this group needs to focus most on simply regaining their identity. The Bulls are at their best when they play with active hands and sprint out in transition. In the halfcourt, it’s all about constant off-ball movement and playing unselfishly. If they use this time wisely, why can’t they flip the switch back to the team we saw in the first half of this season?
• How did the Bulls rank in some of the most important statistical categories? Let’s take a look …
FG%: 48.0 (3rd)
3PA: 28,8 (30th)
3P%: 36.9 (4th)
AST%: 57.2 (27th)
REB%: 49.5 (17th)
TOV%: 13.0 (6th)
OFFRTG: 112.7 (13th)
DEFRTG: 113.2 (23rd)
NETRTG: -0.5 (20th)
Point Differential: -0.4 (20th)
via NBA Stats
• Unless the New Orleans Pelicans make it through the Play-In Tournament and secure a top-8 seed, the Chicago Bulls will hold the lowest Net Rating and point differential of any playoff team (*holds back vomit*). At the end of the day, cracking the postseason is still all that matters, but those are two straightforward stats that must be highlighted in conversations this offseason. The team lacked sufficient balance, and it led to them sneaking into the playoffs by the skin of their teeth.
• Zach LaVine is saying the right things heading into his first taste of postseason action, but there is no question he will not understand fully what it takes until he is under those bright lights.
Zach LaVine on the Bucks: "They have a complete team. I think we do as well. We just have to attack them."
— K.C. Johnson (@KCJHoop) April 11, 2022
• What an awesome shot (the photo and bucket).
— Joe Pinchin (@JoePinchin) April 11, 2022
Fun fact: The Lakers have finally stopped paying Luol Deng today.
— StatMuse (@statmuse) April 11, 2022
• Yeah … so I’m pretty sure you can’t do that, Campazzo.
Facu Campazzo gets ejected for a flagrant 2 foul on Wayne Ellington.
Wayne: "When I see you I’m putting my hands on you."pic.twitter.com/XX7A2F0yOj
— Ballislife.com (@Ballislife) April 11, 2022
Yeah, So, Jonathan Villar Was Pretty Clearly Safe – https://t.co/8XsDeFMwgg (via BN)
— Bleacher Nation (@BleacherNation) April 11, 2022