‘Every game is important’ – The Mercury News

‘Every game is important’ – The Mercury News

For the last week, the Chicago Bulls have posted the Eastern Conference standings on the board in their locker room. It’s a prominent focal point for a team that barely controls its destiny.

The Bulls are teetering on the edge of contention for the last spot in the play-in tournament, sitting 11th in the Eastern Conference after spending recent weeks bobbing between the 10th and 12th slots. The final brutal stretch of the season — 15 games in 26 days entering Wednesday — will be decided by the ninth-hardest schedule in the league as the Bulls face teams with an average winning percentage of .518.

And unless the Bulls win all 15 games, their playoff hopes would at least be partially decided by the teams surrounding them in the standings.

“They know exactly where we’re at, what’s going on,” coach Billy Donovan said. “But we can’t be a group of guys that sits there and looks at the scoreboard all the time, wanting help from somebody else when we’re not taking care of the things that we’ve got to take care of.”

The seventh and 12th rungs of the Eastern Conference are separated by only 5½ games, leaving a wide-open track for the final sprint of the next four weeks.

The Bulls are in mixed company regarding tiebreakers. They hold the head-to-head advantage over the Washington Wizards, who entered Wednesday at 10th in the conference, although the Bulls hold two games in hand. But the Bulls last week ceded the tiebreaker to the Indiana Pacers, who sit a game behind the Bulls at 12th.

Guard Zach LaVine said his teammates have reached the point of the season where every game is being tracked — on their screens or with constant updates and notifications.

“We understand the positioning. We understand the standings,” LaVine said. “Every game is important.”

It’s unrealistic to expect any team to go on a 15-0 run. But for the Bulls, any streak would be an improvement.

They have struggled to string together victories — their longest winning streak is three games while their longest losing streak is six.

Donovan and players have emphasized the same issue in the inability to extend winning patterns: a consistent lack of urgency. But with less than four weeks left in the season, the Bulls have no room to lack energy or drive as they attempt to chase down a ticket to the postseason.

“You have to be internally really motivated and driven, especially in this league because it’s really hard to win,” Donovan said. “Every night is hard and it’s 82 games and they keep on coming and you have to get yourself to a place emotionally every single night that’s really hard to get to.

“We don’t have the luxury to look at anything else other than the standard that we have to play to. That’s the goal.”


Soruce : https://www.mercurynews.com/2023/03/16/chicago-bulls-face-a-rough-final-stretch-15-matchups-in-26-days-to-earn-a-postseason-spot-every-game-is-important/

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