Things have been going badly for the Chicago Bulls in recent weeks, but Sunday was actually a really good day for the team’s playoff prospects as they avoided a season series sweep at the hands of the Milwaukee Bucks.
The game saw huge performances out of Nikola Mirotic, who scored 28 points, and Jimmy Butler, who set a new career high in assists with 14 in the 109-94 victory.
So where does that leave the Bulls’ playoff chances with only eight games remaining in the regular season? To answer that question, we’re taking a deep dive into the playoff scenarios to examine where the Bulls stand, and who they could possibly play in the first round of the postseason.
Where Things Stand Now:
Thanks to the Bulls’ victory, and thanks to Miami’s loss to the Boston Celtics, the Bulls are now just a half-game behind the Heat for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The Bulls are still within shouting distance of three other teams, as they trail Atlanta, Indiana, and Milwaukee by two and a half games.
The Bulls only have eight games to go in the regular season, but Miami has a game in hand on Chicago and has one fewer loss than the Bulls do, so they maintain a narrow edge in the standings as a result.
Who the Bulls Could Play in the First Round:
That situation is up in the air right now, and it depends on several factors. In all likelihood, if the Bulls get into the postseason it will be as the number eight seed in the East, barring a monumental collapse by one of the three teams that they trail by two and a half games in the standings.
If the Bulls finish in eight, they’ll likely play either the Cleveland Cavaliers, who they will play in a regular season tilt on Thursday night, or the Boston Celtics, who are now tied with the Cavaliers after their win over Miami on Sunday.
The Celtics have played two more games than the Cavaliers have, so Cleveland does have the chance to pick up a game in the standings if they can win both of those games in hand over Boston.
What’s Next in the Race?
The Bulls have a couple of home games coming up this week, as they’ll welcome a pair of teams with serious playoff aspirations to the United Center. First the Cavaliers come to town on Thursday for a nationally televised showdown, and then the Bulls will take on the Hawks on Saturday afternoon.
On Sunday the Bulls will complete the end of a tough back-to-back as they head to New Orleans to take on Anthony Davis and the New Orleans Pelicans.
Meanwhile, Miami has a relatively easy path through the next four games, as they’ll play Detroit and then take on the Knicks in a back-to-back set against one of the league’s worst teams. They’ll finish off the week with a home game on Sunday against the Denver Nuggets before embarking on a three-game road trip next week.