Bulls roll past Magic, but playoff clincher on hold
Dwyane Wade probably didn't expect to go into the final day of the regular season battling his old team, the Miami Heat, for a playoff spot.
But he low-keyed it when asked about the scenario. After rolling over Orlando 122-75 at the United Center on Monday, the Bulls and Miami are tied with one game left in the regular season. The Bulls own the tiebreaker, so all they have to do is beat Brooklyn at home on Wednesday.
"We can't worry about them," Wade said. "We have to come in with the mentality that they're going to win. We've just got to win our game to seal a playoff spot."
Miami hosts Washington on Wednesday and the Wizards may rest their main guys. The Bulls (40-41) would have already clinched a playoff spot if not for a loss at Brooklyn on Saturday.
"What you want is to be able to control your own destiny and we can do that," Wade said. "If we don't win the game, then we don't deserve to be in. It's as simple as that."
This game showed what a team fighting for a playoff spot is supposed to look like. The Bulls jumped to a 34-13 lead after one quarter and kept rolling from there. The 47-point margin of victory was tied for the third-highest in franchise history.
The Bulls had six players reach double figures, led by center Robin Lopez with 18 points. Jimmy Butler and Jerian Grant scored 17 each, while Nikola Mirotic added 16. The Bulls hit 12 of 26 shots from 3-point range.
"I think everybody was locked in. That's important," Butler said. "We need everybody to be locked in tomorrow during practice, during shootaround on Wednesday and bring it at 7 o'clock."
Rajon Rondo missed his third straight game with a sprained right wrist. It's uncertain if he'll be ready to play in Wednesday's regular-season finale.
Starting in Rondo's place for the third game in a row, Grant tied his career-high with 8 assists before the second quarter ended. If the game had been closer, Grant might have topped his career-high of 19 points as well. He finished with 11 assists against the Magic.
"Just making sure guys were involved and guys were getting good looks," Grant said. "Coach and Jimmy putting the ball in my hands, telling me to make plays meant a lot and gave me confidence to go out and do that."
At the start of the night, there was actually a scenario where the Bulls could win their final two games and still miss the playoffs, if there was a three-way tie between the Bulls, Miami and Milwaukee at 41-41. When the Bucks beat Charlotte on Monday at the Bradley Center, that possibility ended.
If the Bulls win Wednesday, they will finish seventh or eighth and face either Cleveland or Boston in the first round of the playoffs. With the Cavs' overtime loss in Miami on Monday, the Celtics moved into first place in the East by one game over the Cavaliers.
Cleveland owns the tiebreaker over Boston, but if the Celtics beat Milwaukee at home on Wednesday, Boston will be the No. 1 seed and Cleveland No. 2.
Indiana beat Philadelphia on Monday, so the Bulls stayed a game behind the Pacers in the standings. In order to move up to the No. 7 seed, the Pacers would need to lose at home to Atlanta on Wednesday while the Bulls beat Brooklyn. If Indiana beats the Hawks, the Bulls can do no better than No. 8.
In a three-way tie between the Bulls, Miami and Indiana, the Bulls would be the No. 7 seed and the Pacers would miss the playoffs.
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