Very few things are certain in this topsy-turvy unpredictable Bulls season, but the stage was set for something oh-so-inevitable as soon as the schedule was announced eight months ago.
A Thursday night game in Chicago, in March, on national television.
It didn't matter that it was the defending-champion Cleveland Cavaliers coming into the United Center, saying all the right things about needing to get themselves right with a handful of games left in the regular season.
Thursday night on Madison.
With Nikola Mirotic.
Check, check, check.
The Bulls completed an improbable season sweep of the Cavaliers with a 99-93 win, pulling themselves to within a game of the Indiana Pacers and Miami Heat for a playoff spot in their 20th straight regular-season home win on TNT.
Mirotic continued his torrid month, hitting six triples and scoring 28 in 38 minutes, as many of his points were assisted from the capable hands of Rajon Rondo, who had a season-high 15 assists.
"It is great, it's a great feeling," Mirotic said after his second straight 28-point performance. "I feel like my long shot has been great lately, I've also been making shots that are not 3s. Rondo has been finding me, he's been looking for me."
Rondo said the Bulls aren't running plays for Mirotic, but with this being his hot month, Rondo has been looking for him almost every time down, especially on secondary breaks.
"We're trusting each other more," Rondo said. "We're rebounding the ball, taking care of the basketball. (Niko's) a confident player, those shots he missed early in the year, he's making them now. We believe in him."
The team that can't shoot hit 12 triples Thursday after 10 in Milwaukee, firing from all angles and often playing frenetically — which works to their advantage as they don't have traditional secondary scoring options.
"We wanted to get our attempts up," Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. "With the trade, and we put Rondo back in the lineup, we really felt we needed to space the floor, and that's where Niko came in. He's played with such good rhythm."
Hoiberg couldn't explain the statistical anomaly with his team's streak, probably keeping his hands off the recent voodoo that established itself before he took over as coach.
But he could explain the recent trend of players like Rondo and Mirotic doing just enough work early so Jimmy Butler could have the ball in his hands late and enough energy to put together a decent fourth quarter without being dog tired. Thursday, he scored 10 of his 25 points in the final quarter.
A quick spurt to start the final stanza, where Butler hit a corner 3, intercepted a LeBron James pass and then hit a mid-range jumper, pushed the Bulls' lead to 88-78 at a time when the champions were expected to get serious about things.
"Just made a lot of great plays, Jimmy was really, really good tonight," Hoiberg said, pointing to a stretch while Butler sat late in the third and the Bulls increased their lead with two triples from Denzel Valentine.
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Butler came back from getting popped in the eye in the second quarter, removed from the game and sitting out for awhile, going to the locker room before re-emerging in the third.
It was the only time the Cavaliers looked intent on ending the Bulls' streak, as James scored 19 of his 26 in the first half, ending the second quarter with a buzzer-beating jumper.
The Cavaliers certainly didn't look like a team playing with championship intensity or attention to detail and couldn't muster up the urgency the Bulls have to play with for the next two weeks.
Rondo led the brigade, baiting the Cavaliers into needless fouls, careless mistakes and an overall indifference for long stretches. And the Bulls took advantage in the second half while waiting for the inevitable James explosion that actually never occurred.
"He broke us down. Take the challenge. Rondo's a veteran point guard," James said. "He's been doing this for years. It's no surprise. We just got to have our head on a swivel knowing he likes to get into the paint, not even for himself a lot of the time, it's to get guys open. And he found them."
James added 10 rebounds and eight assists, but missed a critical 3-pointer that could've pulled the Cavs to a workable margin with less than a minute left.
James dominated a stretch to start the second quarter, beginning with a detonating dunk on a helpless Joffrey Lauvergne, following it up with two more dunks and pushing the Cavaliers' lead to 10.
Not to be outdone on the defensive end, he darted out in the passing lane to intercept a needless Denzel Valentine pass and had a chase-down block on Michael Carter-Williams that was reminiscent of so many in his younger days — except it's hard to tell the difference between a younger James and this version.
His 1-for-7 night from 3-point range was the only demerit on an otherwise sterling performance on a night that called for more from his co-stars.
Kevin Love was in foul trouble in the second half, picking up his fifth on the first possession of the fourth and then fouling out within moments of re-entering, fouling Butler on what turned out to be a three-point play opportunity.
Rondo hounded Kyrie Irving to a 7-for-20 night and disrupted the Cavs' offense just enough with deflections and tips, as the champions turned it over 15 times and shot 45 percent from the field.
Rondo was also the catalyst for a third-quarter explosion that turned the game around, as the Bulls outscored the Cavaliers 37-21 in the third, with Rondo dishing out eight assists and the Bulls hitting five triples in the period.
It's only one game, but for a night, Bulls fans could say they expected this win, for once.
After all, it's Thursday night on Madison.