The 8th seed was there for them on a silver platter.
But to get there, they needed to beat the Atlanta Hawks. Without Trae Young and De’Andre Hunter in the lineup, the Bulls had no reason to lose this game.
But they did. Badly. 123-105.
“It was a must-win game for us, and obviously we didn’t do good enough,” LaVine said. “They wanted it more than us. It sucks to have that type of result at this point in the season.”
Coming off an excellent resurgence against the Grizzlies, the Bulls had all the mojo in the world. But one good half doesn’t translate to the next game. And if there’s anything we’ve learned about the consistency of this team, it’s that there is none.
The Hawks got off to a hot start and held a 10-point lead that the Bulls couldn’t ever cut into.
“I thought we competed. But we did not compete at the level, in a game like this, against that team, that was good enough to win the game,” Billy Donovan said. “That’s the bottom line.
And that part of it is disappointing.”
With all due respect to the multiple blown leads against the Pacers, bad losses to the Hornets, Magic, Spurs, Rockets, giving up 150 to the Timberwolves, losing by 30 to the Knicks at home, giving up 71 to Donovan Mitchell, getting beaten at the buzzer more times than I have fingers, a despicable six-game losing streak leading to the Trade Deadline and a shellacking by the Nets right after the Trade Deadline, etc., this was one of the most disappointing games of the year.
With the stakes of this game, the opportunity to finish the year on good terms and claw their way up the standings, this was an extremely disappointing showing.
“I just think they wanted it more than us,” LaVine said.
Play-In Tournament Update
Let’s start with the good news: The Bulls have officially clinched a spot in the Play-In Tournament.
The bad news: it’s almost certainly going to be 10th place.
The Bulls had a chance to tie the Hawks at 39-40 a piece with the tiebreaker in their pocket. That means, if all three of the Hawks, Raptors and Bulls finished with the same record, the Bulls would have made the 8th seed. If the Raptors finished better and the Bulls and Hawks tied, the Bulls would have been the 9th seed.
Instead, the Bulls are all but locked into the 10th spot and will need to win two away games to get into the Playoffs.
“We’re happy that we’re going to be at least in [the Play-In Tournament],” Nikola Vucevic said. “It hasn’t been the season so far we wanted. We were hoping to be higher in the standings, but it is what it is. It will give us an opportunity to get into the Playoffs.”
What makes DeMar DeRozan’s pump fakes so difficult to guard?
DeMar DeRozan is the pump fake god.
Everyone bites on it. All the time. Even if they know it’s coming.
And DeRozan isn’t slowing with age. In fact, he’s getting better. DeRozan is drawing shooting fouls on 18.5 percent of his shot attempts this season, the second highest mark of his career. He’s getting and-1 calls on 29.2 percent of all shooting fouls, a career-high.
Dejounte Murray, the 2021-22 steals leader, a former All-Defensive second team player and teammate of DeRozan’s had some insight into why the Bulls forward is so effective with his pump fake.
“It’s a respect thing,” Murray told CHGO before the game. “His mid-range shot being almost automatic. So it’s a respect thing.”
Toward the end of the first half, DeRozan drew Murray on a switch and got him in the post, where he promptly got Murray in the air and earned a trip to the line.
The key to stopping it?
“Be the second jumper,” Murray said.
If you jump first, DeRozan is going to jump into you. If you don’t just first, you might just give up an open jumper to one of the most lethal mid-range artists in the league.
“You’ve gotta be the second jumper, but sometimes you’re the first jumper because he’s so good at it,” Murray said.
Bulls head to Milwaukee to play on the second night of a back-to-back against the Bucks
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