Bulls clinch play-in spot despite loss to Hawks
Kamil Krzaczynski - USA Today Sports

Bulls clinch play-in spot despite loss to Hawks

by - Senior Writer -

CHICAGO - Although no loss is ever a good thing for any team, some losses are more tolerable than the rest and although the Chicago Bulls (36-40) dropped another big game at the United Center Monday, all was not lost. Despite the Atlanta Hawks (35-40) coming into to town and picking up the 113-101 victory to pull within .5 games of the No. 9 spot in the East, Chicago is guaranteed a spot in the Play-In tournament as the Brooklyn Nets fell to Indiana.

That means no matter what happens from here on out, the Bulls will play at least one playoff game this season, as they hope for better results this time around. That all starts by locking down the No. 9 seed, which would guarantee them at least one home game for the Play-in round. Looking at their remaining schedule, you can point to three if not four, games that they should win, but they need to take care of business first as they continue to play down to their competition.

Looking to create a 2.5-game cushion over the Hawks with less than seven games to play, this was a massive game for Chicago as it ultimately had a two-game swing. Both teams came out strong to begin the game, with the Hawks taking a 32-30 lead after one-quarter of play, but it was the second and third quarters that decided this game.

Despite keeping things close throughout the second quarter, Chicago failed to convert down the stretch and ultimately found themselves trailing by eight at the break. Things only got worse once the third quarter got rolling, as the Hawks continued to build on their lead and outscored the Bulls 29-21 to take a commanding 16-point lead into the final quarter. Chicago did a great job trying to battle back, but they ran out of gas late and dropped another game you could argue they should've had.

As has been the case for the past month, Chicago was led offensively by Mid-Range assassin Demar DeRozan as he continued to go about his business. Despite being in his 13th season, DeRozan continues to lead the league in minutes played, all while looking like a fine bottle of wine that gets better with age. He paced the Bulls with 31 points and five assists.

Speaking of players who have logged a ton of minutes, Coby White has already logged a career-high in minutes played and also ranks in the top five in overall minutes. You can see the fatigue starting to set in a little bit, but White continues to push through those struggles to be the leader the Bulls need at the PG position. White had a phenomenal second quarter to help keep things close until the final minute and finished the game with 22 points to give DeRozan a nice complimentary piece.

Chicago benefitted from two other players having a strong game, with Ayo Dosunmu delivering 15 points, while Andre Drummond came through with 13 points and 18 boards. Considering Alex Caruso and Nikola Vucevic only combined for 13 points, the play of Drummond was massive although Vooch did have 14 rebounds himself. Unfortunately, the overall struggles from the Bulls starting five, mixed with only seven additional points coming from Terry Taylor and Jevon Carter proved to be too much as the Bulls had nothing left in the tank for this one.

Even without Trae Young leading the Hawks, they are still in a great spot to make the playoffs and possibly overtake Chicago.

You could even say they have played better without Young, much like the Bulls have without Zach Lavine. With Young out, it has forced other guys to step up and has created a much more balanced offensive attack, as four starters finished with at least 15 points and six players in double figures overall.

Bogdan Bogdanovic continued his recent scoring binge, leading the Hawks with 20 points on a near-perfect night shooting. Dejounte Murray added 17 points, eight boards, and six assists in a complete game showing, while Clint Capela dropped 15 points and 11 rebounds. However, the real story of the night came from Vit Krejci, who single-handedly took over the end of the first half. Krejci finished with 18 points on a perfect 6-6 from distance, including three late in the first half to build the Hawks lead.

Performances like that down the stretch can make or break a season, and the Bulls haven't had many of those from unsuspected role players. Jalen Johnson and Bruno Fernando rounded out the double-digit scorers for the Hawks with 21 combined points off the bench, with Johnson finishing with 11 and Fernando with 10, helping pave the way for the upset win.

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