The NBA wrapped up its regular season Monday, and the playoffs and play-in standings are now finalized.

The Chicago Bulls finished the season 39-43, one game worse than last season, following a crazy 120-119 OT loss at New York (they finished 7-4 in OT games this season), but got the 9 seed instead of the 10 seed this time.

However, this season did feel a little better, considering there were far more injuries and young players like Ayo Dosunmu and Coby White stepped up. They will host the Atlanta Hawks in a win-or-go-home game. If they win, they will play the loser of Miami vs. Philadelphia on the road.

Wednesday, April 17th, 8:30 PM CT: Hawks @ Bulls, ESPN

The Bulls won the season series 2-1, defeating them at home in December 118-113 and on the road in February 136-126, while losing in the most recent matchup 113-101 at home in April. DeMar DeRozan was the team’s leading scorer in each matchup, as Zach LaVine missed all three matchups. Alex Caruso and Ayo Dosunmu were also key in those matchups, doing their best to contain Trae Young and Dejounte Murray. Young has notoriously been held in check by Dosunmu since he entered the league, and that’ll have to happen again for the Bulls to pull out the win.

DeRozan should feast again, as the Hawks lack someone to guard him in the post. The Bulls will also need Drummond to take advantage of Atlanta’s lack of size in their second unit, as well as Javonte Green’s energy.

For Atlanta, Onyeka Okongwu, Jalen Johnson, and Saddiq Bey will all be out, while Zach LaVine, Patrick Williams, Julian Phillips, and Lonzo Ball will be out for Chicago. This matchup should favor the Bulls, who are -3.5 favorites and have been playing better than Atlanta lately (3-3 in their last 6, compared to the Hawks coming in on a 6-game losing streak).

Friday, April 19th: Bulls @ 76ers OR Heat, ESPN

Should the Bulls win on Wednesday, they’d find themselves in the same position they were in last season, playing one final game to try and make the playoffs. Both matchups would be tough; the Heat and 76ers are 7 and 8 games ahead of the Bulls for a reason. The 76ers are not your typical play-in team; they were on pace for a top 4 seed before Joel Embiid was injured and have won 8 in a row since his return.

The Bulls beat Philly once with Embiid and once without him and got smacked in their third matchup when he played, but all the matchups were from December to January. Embiid would likely dominate the Bulls down low again, so Coby White and DeMar DeRozan would need to have big games offensively. If it’s Miami, it’s a rematch from last season; Miami appears to be worse this season, while the Bulls are about the same (replace LaVine’s production with the improvement of White and Dosunmu).

Jimmy Butler remains a postseason killer, and Spoelstra is a coach most in the NBA would take, but Miami doesn’t shoot the ball very well. That matchup would likely be a dogfight. The teams split the season series 2-2, including a huge Bulls comeback in the first matchup and a Jimmy Butler buzzer-beater game-winner in the last matchup, but those happened in November and December; much has changed.

Both teams are relatively healthy, with only Josh Richardson (Heat) and Robert Covington (76ers) out for the season, giving them a huge advantage over the Bulls.

If the Bulls can get two wins this week, they will face the 64-18, best record in the NBA, 1-seeded Boston Celtics.
For now, though, Billy Donovan needs to focus on one game at a time to get this team back to the playoffs after a rollercoaster of a regular season ended with the team close to .500 again.

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