After winning back-to-back games and bringing the playoffs back into focus, the Chicago Bulls suffered their worst loss of the season on Wednesday night.
The Cleveland Cavaliers were up by as many as 33 at one point, but ultimately finished out the routing of Nikola Vucevic and company at 121-105.
With no timetable on Zach LaVine’s return available, Chicago’s hopes to make the playoffs is looking less and less likely with 14 games remaining.
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A Missed Opportunity
Coming off of back-to-back wins, and with the season winding down, the Chicago Bulls could have really used a third straight win, and potentially an even lengthier win streak.
It wasn’t meant to be. And that much was apparent within the first 12 minutes.
The Bulls scored just two points over the final six minutes and 55 seconds of the first quarter, and just 12 points total in the period. The Cavaliers are no top defensive team either.
Cleveland’s got the league’s 17th Defensive Rating at 111.9 points per 100 possessions, and is allowing 49.4 points in the paint nightly, suggesting Vucevic should have had a field day.
It ended up the opposite, with Chicago’s big man shooting four-of-12 on the night.
This comes against a Cleveland Cavaliers team the Bulls just beat this past Saturday, 106-96.
Vucevic finished that game with 25 points and seven rebounds, a night and day difference. But not only did Chicago drop a must-win game to a team they just beat, but they lost their play-in spot too.
The Washington Wizards beat the Golden State Warriors, jumping them over the Bulls for the 10th seed in the East. They’ve won six straight and eight of their last nine.
And the Toronto Raptors won their matchup with the Brooklyn Nets, their fourth-straight victory.
For the Chicago Bulls to retake their place in the play-in tournament, well it’d take some serious effort, something this team was lacking in Wednesday’s loss.
A Silver Lining
All things considered, the Chicago Bulls sound and look like a team that’s trying actively not to tank.
And why should they? When healthy they’ve got two All-Stars. Remaining competitive is how you bait in a third.
But with LaVine out indefinitely, and the play-in tournament slipping through their fingers, would losing a few more games truly be the worst thing?
Toronto and Washington’s wins drop the Bulls to the 12th seed in the Eastern Conference.
But it boosts their chances at a top-four pick in the upcoming draft to 26 percent.
Fans will no doubt recall that if that pick lands in the top-four, Chicago gets to keep it. Otherwise, it goes to the Orlando Magic as apart of the Nikola Vucevic trade.
Something to monitor, at a minimum.
Updated Bulls Playoff Odds
After their loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Chicago Bulls fall to 24-34.
That drops them to the Eastern Conference’s 12th seed.
Five Thirty Eight has the Bulls’ playoff chances at four percent.
That’s good for the worst odds among teams with a greater than one percent chance.
The website’s forecast heavily favors Toronto to make the postseason, with a 22 percent chance.
Tankathon.com has Chicago’s remaining schedule as the fifth-toughest in the entire NBA.
So the odds are stacked against the Chicago Bulls, who’ve lost six of their last eight.
14 games to go.