Bulls

Bulls take care of business against Magic, await playoff fate in final game

Bulls take care of business against Magic, await playoff fate in final game

No matter the score or how impressive the Bulls' end-to-end 122-75 win was over the Orlando Magic, the only thing it clinched was a better point differential, as they are now through 81 games and needing one more to qualify for the NBA Playoffs.

It certainly looked pretty, as the sight of another game with double-digit 3-point makes as well as shooting over 50 percent was necessary, along with Dwyane Wade playing another 22 minutes to get himself in a rhythm before the playoffs.

If the playoffs happen, because the Miami Heat beat the Cleveland Cavaliers in overtime while the Bulls' game had yet to go final, meaning it could take a win over the Brooklyn Nets Wednesday to clinch a playoff spot.

If there's a position you'd want to be in — as unnecessary as it seems — you'd want to come off a game where six players were in double figures. Assists were tossed around like rice at a wedding as the Bulls looked cohesive for the night, compared to a lethargic showing — something the Bulls are wont to do.

Having 33 assists on 48 field goals is set to be a recipe for success against most teams and the Bulls needed a wire-to-wire win to restore some confidence headed into the regular-season finale Wednesday.

"If we don't win the game, we don't deserve to be in. Simple as that," Wade said. "We took care of business, we beat a team we were supposed to beat here on our home floor, and it's the same thing we're supposed to do on Wednesday."

Robin Lopez led the Bulls with 18 points and Jimmy Butler scored 17 in 31 minutes, in a game that seemed over shortly after 7:15 local time.

"I think the big thing was our energy right out the gate," Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. "That's something we talk about. Today we got out with the ball and played with pace and our guys were really unselfish with the ball."

Against one of the more youthful and athletic clubs in the league, albeit an underachieving one, the Bulls looked like the young and athletic bunch for the first time in a long time.

It's not to say Wade looked 10 years younger but he's feeling closer and closer to his usual form, while not trying to disrupt the ball movement and spacing style that was established in his absence.

"Tonight was a good game for everyone to be involved and feel good about themselves," Wade said. "We look forward to playing the team again that stole a game from us a couple days ago."

Hoiberg said: "I thought he looked comfortable tonight. His rhythm was better and you could tell his legs were better. He just had to get that first one out of the way."

Getting out of the break early and often, the Bulls made the contest look like target practice, throwing multiple alley-oops, complete with uncontested breakaways and backdoor cuts against a defense that displayed an indifference similar to a team that longs for Wednesday to come and go as quick as possible.

Taking a lead that reached 30 before the half and extended to as much as 47 in the second half, little time, energy and emotion was wasted before the eyes of the important people turned to what was going on in South Beach.

Off and running for the better part of 48 minutes, the Bulls wasted no time, looking nothing like the inconsistent bunch that took turns showing up or falling asleep last week on their east coast swing.

Jerian Grant had a career-high 11 assists in the absence of Rajon Rondo, who is still out with a right wrist sprain — a sprain Hoiberg deemed "significant" in the pregame — and with no real sign of a definitive return.

Grant has averaged 15.6 points, seven assists and four rebounds in three games since being reinserted as starter.

"Jerian has been great," Hoiberg said. "It's obviously huge shoes to fill with Rajon out. Jerian has done a terrific job of going out and playing with confidence. He made the right play and right read."

Making more of an impression for the playoffs than one might've expected — should the Bulls qualify — Grant made the case he should be on the floor no matter who on the roster is available.

"It feels good to go in and play well after being taken out of the rotation, especially these last couple games that we need to win. It means a lot for me," Grant said. "It's one game and we're in."

Just as things have been all season, the answers on the Bulls won't come until the final day of the regular season, it appears, where opportunity or disaster is at their door.

Three Things to Watch: Bulls take on Suns

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Three Things to Watch: Bulls take on Suns

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Bulls take on the Phoenix Suns Sunday on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. with Bulls Pregame Live.

1. Something's got to give

What's the opposite of an unstoppable force vs. an immovable object? That's what we'll be looking at when the Bulls have the ball in their hands. Chicago ranks dead last in offensive efficiency, while the Suns have the 2nd worst defensive efficiency in the NBA. That means the Bulls, after scoring a season-high 123 points against the Hornets, can build on that momentum against a Suns defense that allowed 90 points in the FIRST HALF to the Rockets on Thursday.

2. Kris Dunn for real?

Fresh off the best game of his young career - he scored 22 points in a win over the Hornets on Friday - Kris Dunn continues to look like the best point guard on the Bulls roster. He's going through a really solid stretch right now, averaging 13.2 points on 47 percent shooting, 4.2 assists and 2.6 steals over his last four games. With Eric Bledsoe out of Phoenix, Dunn could be in line for another big game going up against Mike James and Tyler Ulis, regardless of whether or not he starts over Jerian Grant.

3. Watch out for Devin Booker

We'll try to get an opponent in here once for every tune-in, and Devin Booker certainly fits the bill. Much like Dunn is doing, Booker is on quite a roll these days. Over his last four games Booker is averaging 30.5 points on 51 percent shooting, 4.5 rebounds and 5.8 assists. The Bulls will need to keep their eyes on Booker at all times, especially after allowing Kemba Walker to go off for 47 points on Friday.

Bulls Talk Podcast: Will Kris Dunn build off career night?

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USA TODAY

Bulls Talk Podcast: Will Kris Dunn build off career night?

On this edition of the Bulls Talk podcast, Mark Schanowski, Kendall Gill, and Kevin Anderson react to a breakout game from Kris Dunn against the Hornets Friday night. They’ll discuss his development and how it impacts rookie Lauri Markkanen. Plus just how long will both the Wolves and Bulls be judged on the Jimmy Butler trade? Is Dwight Howard a hall of famer? And a new era in Philly with Simmons and Embiid. That and more on this edition of the Bulls Talk podcast.