The slumping Chicago Bulls broke through with a much-needed 107-94 road win over the Washington Wizards on Tuesday, but there’s still plenty of work to do over the final week and a half of the regular season.
A top-four seed in the Eastern Conference is a pipe dream at this point. A five-game losing streak from Feb. 26 to Mar. 7 and a subsequent stretch that saw them drop five of six (Mar. 14 to Mar. 24) has essentially doomed Chicago’s chances of being a top-four seed in the East.
At this point, the Bulls’ main focus is to avoid the scare that is the play-in tournament. The Bulls, Toronto Raptors, and Cleveland Cavaliers are in a fierce battle for the No. 5 and No. 6 seeds, and the unlucky team in that bunch will likely draw Kevin Durant’s Brooklyn Nets in the No. 7 vs. No. 8 seed play-in game.
The Bulls greatly exceeded expectations by vying for the conference’s top seed throughout the majority of the regular season, but their championship hopes and odds have fallen drastically in recent weeks.
At FanDuel, the Bulls are a +6500 longshot to win the championship, and they’re +6000 at DraftKings. The sports betting industry has rapidly grown in the state of Illinois with sportsbook promo codes offered to new customers including risk-free bets.
Bulls fans can bet on individual games, futures (division winners, NBA champion) and individual player awards. For instance, Bulls star DeMar DeRozan has MVP odds of +25000 at DraftKings.
Six games remain on the Bulls’ schedule. They’ll host the Los Angeles Clippers and Miami Heat on Thursday and Saturday, respectively, before getting two days off. They’ll host the Milwaukee Bucks on Apr. 5 before welcoming the Boston Celtics the following night.
They’ll play their final regular season tilt at the United Center vs. the Charlotte Hornets on Apr. 8 before closing out in a road contest against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Apr. 10.
Bulls vs. Clippers Mar. 31 Predictions
The playoff-hopeful Los Angeles Clippers ended a five-game losing skid with a convincing 121-115 home win over the powerhouse Utah Jazz on Tuesday.
Paul George, playing his first game in three months, paced the LA offense with a 34-point performance. The Clippers are essentially locked in for the No. 7 vs. No. 8 seed play-in game. If they can get out of the play-in round, and if Kawhi Leonard returns, they’ll instantly become contenders.
Led by DeRozan’s 35 points and five assists, the Bulls defeated the Clippers on the road back on Nov. 14. George had a productive game that night for the Clippers, racking up 27 points, 11 rebounds and four assists in the loss.
This game feels like a toss-up, but the Bulls have home advantage (Clippers are a mere 16-23 on the road) and a deeper offense with Leonard out of the lineup.
This game is more of a must-win for the Bulls than it is for the Clippers. DeRozan will tune in another signature performance and help Chicago get one step closer to locking in the No. 5 or No. 6 seed.
Prediction: Bulls 114, Clippers 107
Bulls vs. Heat Apr. 2 Predictions
The Bulls will have a much tougher opponent when old friend Jimmy Butler and the Heat come to town on Saturday.
Miami is in a four-way fight with Philadelphia, Boston and Milwaukee for the top seed in the Eastern Conference. The struggling Heat ended a four-game losing skid earlier this week with a 123-120 win over the Sacramento Kings on Monday.
The Heat are 2-0 against the Bulls this season, having defeated them 107-104 at the United Center on Nov. 27 and 118-92 at home back on Dec. 11. They’ll go for the season series sweep in a pivotal Saturday showdown that carries considerable playoff implications.
Though Chicago will have home advantage here, this is a tough matchup for Billy Donovan and company. The Heat’s ultra-effective zone defense frustrated the Bulls’ offense in their previous two meetings.
Erik Spoelstra simply has the blueprint on keeping Chicago’s top scorers in check, and it’s tough to go against Miami in this one.
Chicago will keep it close for three and a half quarters, but Miami’s defense will lock it down in the final minute en route to a much-needed win.
Prediction: Heat 104, Bulls 96