Sure, most people expected to the Chicago Bulls to back off and let the Washington Wizards pick up the victory at the United Center on Sunday afternoon.
The Bulls had other plans. They knocked down 8 of 11 attempts from 3-point range in the first quarter and rolled to a 113-94 victory, their second in a row. The Bulls ended up tying the franchise record with 18 baskets from 3-point range, a number they've hit three times this season.
But aren't the Bulls supposed to be tanking for a better draft pick? Don't tell that to Bobby Portis, who scored 18 points and offered an interesting analogy in the locker room.
"Guys can't go out there and just throw the ball up and try to miss every shot, just so you can lose," Portis said. "If a guy works at Walgreens and he has to put the cookies in the cookie section, then he has to do that. We have to go out there and try to make baskets.
"Everybody probably gets tweeted at about tanking and things like that. We don't really care about none of that. We work hard on a day-to-day basis. This is our job to go out there and perform at the highest level."
For starters, this game marked the Bulls coaching debut of assistant Jim Boylen. Head coach Fred Hoiberg was in the building before the game, but went home with an illness.
So Boylen held the reins from start to finish. He said the one other time he served as head coach in the NBA, it was after Spurs boss Gregg Popovich got tossed in the second half of a loss to Portland on Jan. 17, 2014.
"That's a different scenario than Fred calling me this morning at 9 and saying, 'I'm struggling, you've got to be ready,'" Boylen said. "So I had some time to prepare and some time to maybe focus on that 18 inches over, compared to where I usually sit."
The Bulls (26-51) got off to a great start with Robin Lopez and Justin Holiday both in the starting lineup. Lopez, who celebrated his 30th birthday on Sunday, played in just his second home game since the all-star break thanks to the Bulls' plan of playing their younger guys.
Holiday, Portis and Lauri Markkanen were all hot from long range. Markkanen led the Bulls with 23 points, hitting 5 of 8 shots from 3-point range. Markkanen scored 22 points in Houston last week, but this was his highest-scoring game since Jan. 10.
"It makes it easier when you make shots and people have to play you closer," Markkanen said.
Washington (42-35) played without John Wall, who returned Saturday against Charlotte after missing roughly two months with a knee injury. As usual, the Bulls were without Zach LaVine (knee) and Kris Dunn (toe).
There was an interesting stretch in the fourth quarter after the Bulls opened up a 95-80 advantage, Wizards coach Scott Brooks put all five starters back on the court with 8:02 remaining against a Bulls lineup of Ryan Arcidiacono, Jerian Grant, Sean Kilpatrick, Noah Vonleh and Cristiano Felicio. The Bulls actually outscored Washington 8-6 over the next 3½ minutes and Brooks cleared the bench.
"I thought our guys really competed. We talked about playing hard, playing for each other," Boylen said. "They said they're going to give me the game ball. They have to find it first, though."
Final Four pit stop:
Bulls guard Denzel Valentine made it back from San Antonio, where he watched his older brother Drew work as an assistant coach for Loyola in the national semifinals on Saturday. Valentine sat in the Loyola section with college teammate Bryn Forbes, who plays for the Spurs.
"The airport in Orlando (for the flight to San Antonio) was crazy packed," Valentine said. "Pretty much everybody on my flight had one of the four team's sweatshirts. So it was pretty cool. I got to actually go and be a fan for once, so it was a good experience.
"(Loyola) had a great run. It definitely helped out for whatever future Drew is trying to make, getting to the Final Four. So I'm happy for him."
• Twitter: @McGrawDHBulls.