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Here’s the deal with the Bulls, Wizards and play-in race heading into the weekend

slim chance

NBA: Chicago Bulls at Washington Wizards POOL PHOTOS-USA TODAY Sports

After the Wizards gagged away Wednesday’s game against the Hawks, the Bulls took care of business against the G League Raptors on Thursday to set up a final weekend that gives Chicago a very slim chance (emphasis on very slim) to make the play-in tournament.

The Bulls are two games behind the Wizards and must win on the road against the Nets on Saturday and then back at home against the Bucks on Sunday night. Washington has two home games against the Cavaliers and Hornets to finish up the season, and we already know that Bradley Beal will not play against Cleveland on Friday.

Let’s take a quick look at this weekend’s games.

Cavaliers at Wizards, Friday, 6 p.m. CT

The Wizards certainly had their chances in both losses against the Hawks, and hilariously enough, the lack of Daniel Gafford down the stretch on Wednesday was a major talking point (he was apparently fatigued after playing 17 minutes).

Washington is surely annoyed at those losses, but now a date with a lowly Cavs squad is on deck. The Cavs did just beat the Celtics to end an 11-game losing streak, but they’ve obviously been largely terrible for a while now (good thing the Bulls lost to them twice). Darius Garland could be returning from an ankle injury, which would at least give Cleveland a better chance, especially without Beal. The Wizards are just 1-10 without Beal this season.

Still, I expect Russell Westbrook to finally will the Wiz to the play-in spot with a win in this one to eliminate the Bulls. But if they don’t...

Bulls at Nets, Saturday, Noon CT

The Nets just beat the Bulls rather handily earlier this week, and that was with James Harden out and Kyrie Irving out for about half of it. Harden returned from a long absence on Wednesday and looked like his dominant self off the bench, though Irving didn’t play after that elbow from Nikola Vucevic.

With the Nets coming off two days of rest and still looking to secure that No. 2 seed over the Bucks (there’s still an outside chance at the top seed, but that won’t be the case come Saturday assuming the 76ers beat the Magic), I expect them to try to win and play all their stars. [head coach Steve Nash confirmed this Friday] Harden, Irving and Durant have only played seven games together this season, so getting a little more court time together the playoffs would be helpful, even if their raw talent can take them far regardless.

It will be a very tall order to win in Brooklyn, but if Chicago pulls off the miracle...

Hornets at Wizards, Sunday, Noon CT

Would Beal try to return in order to secure the play-in spot? It’s impossible to tell right now, but hamstring injuries are tricky.

The Hornets aren’t exactly lighting things up right now. They’ve lost three games in a row, four of five and have only beaten tanking teams this month. They will also have played in New York against the Knicks the night before. Gordon Hayward is still out and isn’t expected back for the play-in tournament. Miles Bridges has been out with COVID-19, but he’s expected back this weekend.

This is another game the Wizards should win, though the Hornets probably won’t be resting guys because they’re fighting to stay in the 7-8 play-in game. If Charlotte somehow wins...

Bucks at Bulls, Sunday, 8 p.m. CT

The Bulls would have one final shot to get in the play-in against a team they haven’t defeated in forever. However, the Bucks do have a Saturday game against the Heat, so perhaps Sunday would feature some resting players.

It could all depend on if that No. 2 seed is a possibility. In this scenario, the Bulls would have defeated the Nets, helping the Bucks in their quest. Brooklyn faces Cleveland at 6 p.m. CT on Sunday, so that’s a likely win. The game against Miami could help decide what happens.