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Let's Go, Bulls

This read requires a simple explanation of the NBA playoffs and play-ins. "Simple" and "NBA play-in" together in a sentence make for an outrageous oxymoron.

Coming into fruition during the 2021 season, the play-ins are a way for the ninth and tenth seeds to have one last shot at making the playoffs, often finishing within a game or two of the proceeding seeds. Three basketball games will be played: the seventh and eighth seeds play each other for the now-new seventh playoff slot. The loser of this game faces off against the winner of the ninth and tenth seeds game. The winner of this game will claim the very last spot in the playoffs.

Basically, the lower down in this group you finish, the smoother your ride will be. Teams want to finish seventh or eighth so they can play once, win and move on. An interesting point to be made here is that it's all extremely circumstantial. Because of the equilibrium in this part of the table, these four teams might be interchangeable and only history can bring any prognostication.

The Bulls are currently one game behind the ninth and eighth seeds in the east. They are due to face off against the Hawks for an all-important win to put them on par. The Raptors debatably have the most turbulent finale to the 2023 NBA regular season as they look to take on the Bucks and the Celtics – back-to-back. There's a word for that: unlucky. Before they look to combat the two best teams in the league, they'll meet with one of the worst teams, whose offensive prowess currently has a bounty tagged. If they can clinch a win here, they'll ascend to a record of forty wins and thirty-nine losses, which is fated to be rewritten as forty wins and forty-two losses by season end.

The Hawks, however, arrive at the United Centre for the most crucial game of the week. If DeMar, Zach and Nikola can hold it together after a few rest days to defeat the high pick-and-roll game of Trae Young, a bit of balance in the play-in bracket will be restored. The Georgia boys will then travel down to the eleventh seed to face the Wizards. After that, it's back-to-back rounds with the leviathan in Philly and the tenacious green of Boston; forecast projection: cloudy with thunderous spells.

It's then the Bull's turn to take on the upper tier as they land at the foot of Mount Olympia to take on their mid-west rivals. The Bucks are rolling with unmatched momentum as they near the end of the regular season and look to apply the same insatiable thirst for winning in the playoffs. The Bulls have seen victory against the giants in the east but at a different time. A time when losing could be reconciled by the next day. There are no next days now, just winning.

Hopefully, the anarchy in Dallas heralds doom and imbues a sense of urgency in the locker room this week. A win against the Hawks will welcome a draw. A composed success away in Milwaukee will require a prayer or two but isn't impossible, and an all-desperate victory against the Mavs – who are also clambering at the door of the play-ins – is vital. We then finish the regular season with the down-and-out Detroit Pistons, where we may be able to rest on our laurels momentarily before plunging into the playoffs.

Realistically, we will beat the Hawks, Mavs and Pistons and surrender to the might of Milwaukee, rendering us a forty-one-win, forty-one-loss season and the eighth seed. The Hawks and Raptors will both lay quivering in the shadows of the best teams in the league as they drop to ninth and tenth.

The inescapable reality of our play-in struggle is drawing close, and a shot at the eighth seed will better the team's chances of getting into the playoffs. We'd more than likely see the Miami Heat, whom we have played three times and beaten three times this season. The odds are stacked against the heat in a Miami vs Chicago bout and would see us moving swiftly on to the playoffs. If we finish outside of seventh or eighth, we'll face either Toronto or Atlanta, to whom we have lost at least a game to each during our regular season exchanges.

As I mentioned before, it's circumstantial. The Bulls must undergo a paradigmatic shift to permeate further into the season. We recently met an ever-so-slightly shaken Memphis, whom we dismantled in the second half, but boy, was it a struggle. We went from a twenty-point deficit to almost blowing the lead to taking it back and winning by eleven. A couple of key takeaway points from me, Ja was playing at half the speed we're accustomed to seeing, and Jaret got into foul trouble, almost exiting the game before the officials conceded and revoked their decision.

We vacillated between struggling to contain the opposition to putting on a clinic on how to play holistic basketball. A hotter Memphis or a team with their backs against the walls will capitalise off this porous strategy and leave us in playoff-infused dust.

They can do it, and although they might not be the team that displaces the futures of better teams, they will surely meet any opponent with the harsh gales that give the city its name.

Let's go, Bulls.

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