The Chicago Bulls have come off slow in the final week of the season, losing the first quarters of their last four games and struggling to come from first-half deficits. As he prepares his players to try single-elimination for the first time in the NBA play-in tournament, coach Billy Donovan knows that’s no longer an option.
If the Bulls don’t attack on first Wednesday against the Toronto Raptors, their season could come to a complete halt.
“There’s no question that sometimes we’re taking temperatures to see how the game is being played,” Donovan said. “And I think we have to go out there and be the aggressors. Sometimes what happens is that the fight is called early. You want to be the one to force other people to respond.”
which began in 2021, has the 7th-10th seeds battling for the final two playoff spots in each conference, creating higher stakes through the win-or-go-home configuration of the 9-on-10 matchup.
The series is a different challenge, allowing teams to adapt while forcing them to counter opponents’ adjustments. But the Bulls won’t have time to adjust or absorb mistakes on Wednesday.
With their play-in position established as the No. 10 seed, the Bulls’ focus for the final two games of the season was to rest and recalibrate, with veterans Patrick Beverley, DeMar DeRozan and Zach LaVine sitting out Friday’s game as visitors against Dallas. Mavericks.
Even without three key players, the Bulls rallied from a 13-point halftime deficit to defeat the Mavericks 115-112. Coby White had 24 points and 11 assists, Patrick Williams added 23 points and Nikola Vučević had 20 points and 10 rebounds.
But the veteran leadership knows that the most important task over the next five days will be to revive the team’s initial spark to avoid another second-half uphill climb.
“The teams are too good,” DeRozan said. “The margin of error is too small. When you do that consistently, we realize there will be some games where we can pull it off, but too much just has to work out and be on our way. We can’t live like this.”