According to the latest SB Nation Reacts survey, 58 percent of Bulls fans are confident the team is headed in the right direction. That’s down from 64 percent last week but up from 46 percent two weeks ago. So while it seems that confidence overall has picked back up from the lows of the losing streak earlier this month, there is still a bit of disappointment in how the season as a whole. It makes sense given Chicago was in control of the 10th seed for so long, only to see it slip out of their grasp during the months of April and May.
While they ended the season with some wins, it wasn’t enough for them to fight back and get the last spot in the play-in. Looking at the play-in games this week, it was clear that even if they were the 10th seed, Chicago could have had a real shot to nab the 8th seed. Anything can happen in a winner take-all game and this Bulls team winning back to back high pressure games was certainly possible. They had success in the regular season against all of the four Eastern Conference teams in the play-in. With Zach LaVine back healthy, they looked like a different team. Who knew how things could have turned out if Chicago had both of their All-Stars available for most of the second half of the season.
Every team still playing for the NBA championship has their season on the line in some capacity each game. However, some teams are backed into a corner more than others. Wednesday night the Western Conference plays its first two play-in tournament games with one team advancing to the NBA playoffs and one team having its season ended.
Fans around the NBA think the Golden State Warriors have the best chance of advancing beyond the play-in tournament, with 81 percent believing the team will win one of their games. They are followed by the Los Angeles Lakers, who have 80 percent of fans that believe they will win a game.
With the Lakers advancing thanks to a clutch three from LeBron James, it’s down to Golden State and Memphis for the final playoff spot. These are two teams the Bulls really struggled to beat. Chicago went a combined 0-4 against these two teams this season.
One of those top two teams will punch their ticket Wednesday night when the Warriors and Lakers play against each other. While it’s not quite a win-or-go-home game, the loser would be put into an extremely dangerous position. Fortunately for LA and Golden State, they have two of the best players in the game in Stephen Curry and LeBron James.
However, if forced to pick between the two, nearly three-fourths of fans believe Curry is more dangerous in an elimination game than James. Curry can make life difficult for any teams defense in the NBA and the Bulls were no exception. In the first matchup they played back in December, he scored 36 points and notched six assists as well. Against Chicago in the two teams most recent meeting in March, he dropped 32 points and went on one of his patented solo scoring runs to put the game out of reach. What makes Curry so dangerous as an offensive player is not only his shooting but his ability to smartly move off the ball. Chicago struggled to stop him from getting the ball when he came off of screens and other off-ball action, which led to not only open shots for him but his teammates as well.
The first of the Eastern Conference play-in tournament games were played Tuesday night with the Boston Celtics earning the first bid into the playoffs after beating the Washington Wizards. 61 percent of NBA fans believed the Celtics would advance, falling only behind the Wizards team they beat, which took 78 percent. The Indiana Pacers received the least amount of votes, with only 24 percent, but lived to fight another day after beating the Charlotte Hornets.
The Wizards proved the voters correct as beat the Pacers in a 142-115 rout. Behind the duo of Russell Westbrook and Bradley Beal, Washington outscored Indiana by 30 in the second and third quarters combined to run away with the game, clinching the 8th seed in the process. The Bulls had their share of success against the Wizards this year, going 2-1 against them in the regular season. Chicago won the first two matchups in December before losing their most recent meeting in February.
The Hornets loss ended their season, but it’s not the end of exciting times in Charlotte. Point guard LaMelo Ball was picked by 52 percent of NBA fans as the player who should win the Rookie of the Year award. Ball beat out Minnesota Timberwolves’ top pick Anthony Edwards 36 percent and Sacramento Kings rookie Tyrese Haliburton who earned 12 percent.
Patrick Williams didn't crack the top three in terms of percentage for this poll and also wasn’t mentioned as one of the top three candidates for the award itself. Although he displayed flashes of brilliance and you can see why the Bulls drafted him at fourth, there were still some struggles. Williams had a rough second half to the season and looked to have hit the rookie wall. It will be exciting to watch how much better he becomes next year after a full NBA off-season and Summer League.
Wednesday night’s winner between the Lakers and Warriors will decide who plays the Phoenix Suns in the first round. The loser will play for a chance to face off against the Utah Jazz and center Rudy Gobert. The Jazz star was the top pick among fans, with 49 percent of the vote, to win Defensive Player of the Year.
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