The 2023 NBA play-in tournament is set, and despite the 40-42 record, the Chicago Bulls made the cut. As a tenth seed in the Eastern Conference, they’ll need to win two road games to join the first round of the NBA playoffs. And their reward if they get there? A postseason rematch against the league’s top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks.
But, one thing at a time. The Bulls need to make it out of the play-in tournament before they can even worry about a potential first round matchup with the Bucks – and their road to get there begins with the Toronto Raptors!
Operation Escape the 2023 NBA Play-In
Phase 1: Send Home Siakam
The first hurdle for the Bulls escaping the 2023 NBA play-in starts up in Canada. On Wednesday, the guys will faceoff in a single elimination game against the 9th-seeded Toronto Raptors.
Led by Pascal Siakam, the Raptors are going to do everything in their power to stop one familiar face for them: DeMar DeRozan. And he knows it too. While that gameplan led to some success in the regular season with the Raptors going 3-1 against us, it’s not a surefire way to win. Any guy on the court can go off on any given night, and that’s exactly what we think will happen for the Bulls in their first play-in game. Whether it’s LaVine, Vucevic, or guys like Coby White and Patrick Beverley, we think someone will step up big for us on Wednesday. Who knows, it might even be DeRozan even with all the extra defensive attention he’s set to receive.
Phase 2: Win, Consistently
Winning, and doing it consistently, didn’t always come easy for the Chicago Bulls this year. However, escaping the 2023 NBA play-in requires it as a bottom seeded squad. So what’s in-store for our guys should they get past the Raptors? Well, there’s two paths to the playoffs here.
Route 1: Cage the Hawks
After getting past Toronto, the Bulls will need to win once more to sneak their way out of the NBA play-in. In the second game they can either face the Atlanta Hawks, or the Miami Heat. Let’s look at the Hawks matchup first.
With a 2-2 record in the season series against Atlanta, things appear to be pretty even between both squads should this game happen. While it’s true that the Bulls lost to the Hawks earlier this month without their star point guard, Trae Young, we have to hope that the intensity of the playoffs helps fuel the guys a little more than a regular season game.
Speaking of motivation, Coby White hasn’t been quiet about his goals to be a starting player in the league recently. If the Bulls face the Hawks in the second game of the NBA play-in, we predict that White goes all out and is the best point guard on the court that night to lead the Bulls to a win.
Route 2: Turn Down the Heat
As daunting as it may seem, the second possible scenario for the Bulls second game in the play-in involves a highly-talented Miami Heat team led by former Chicago Bull, Jimmy Butler. If we do end up facing the Heat, don’t think they’ll walk all over us into the first round of the playoffs.
This year, the Bulls are up 3-0 in their regular season series against the Heat. Yes, yes, yes, anything is possible with Jimmy Buckets on the floor. But the same can be said for DeMar DeRozan and Zach LaVine. Like the other two matchups, it’ll be tough. But since this is a one-game series, we’ve got to think we can come out on top.
Only time will tell to see if the Chicago Bulls can advance from the 2023 NBA play-in tournament. Regardless of who they could face in the second game, none of their matchups should be taken lightly. But on the same note, none of the opposing teams should be considered impossible to overcome.
The biggest thing for the Bulls that’s followed them all season is consistency in playing well. It’s been a struggle, and stringing these next two wins together would create something they haven’t achieved thus far this year: a four-game winning streak. Every second of the play-in will certainly be stressful, but we might just get hot when we need it most!
Featured image credit: Chicago Bulls’ Instagram