It was a week that summed up Bulls Basketball 2023-24 perfectly.

Stumble through one of the more embarrassing losses of the season in a March 25 stinker to a 14-win Wizards team, blow-out the playoff-bound Indiana Pacers by 26 two nights later, lose to another dead-team-walking in the Brooklyn Nets, and then on Easter evening appear to grab the momentum back by beating Western Conference powerhouse Minnesota and doing so up in the Twin Cities.

So how did the week end?

In painful fashion, thanks to a one-sided loss to an Atlanta team right on their heels in the play-in standings.

No worries, because despite the untimely loss with six games left, the Bulls still backed their way into clinching a play-in spot thanks to a Nets loss.

Because of course they did.

“For us, we’ve shown we can beat anybody and also we’re able to lose to everybody too,” guard Zach LaVine stated a year ago. It still holds true 13 months later.

But before a plot is chosen and the hole is dug on this current Bulls campaign, it’s not that simple to just write off this team.


1. Clutch time – Even with the Hawks loss being one sided, the Bulls have played in a ridiculous number of clutch games this season – 41 to be exact – and were among the league lead with 25 wins.

“Dateline episodes,” as veteran DeMar DeRozan calls them.

If they do get the Hawks in the first round of the play-in – a very strong possibility – Atlanta does not want to get in a close game with the Bulls.

“That says a lot about our character, our will to keep going, not to quit, to bounce back when things aren’t going our way,” DeRozan said of his team’s makeup. “That’s a lot of character.”

2. Schedule – The Bulls came out of Monday’s loss with the fourth-easiest remaining schedule, including revenge opportunities over the Wizards and a Detroit team that has beaten them twice. It’s a little rougher for the Hawks, who still must play the Nuggets, Timberwolves and Mavericks, and have the 14th toughest schedule left.

Despite the Hawks beating the Bulls in the last meeting, they still have a 15-22 road record, and the play-in will likely be in Chicago.

3. “DeBo” – DeRozan goes by the nickname “DeBo,” and the Hawks should just call him “Daddy.” They have no answer for DeRozan and haven’t for quite some time. DeRozan averaged 27 points per game against the Hawks last year and was at 28-plus in three games this season.


1. “Thibs” – While two of the remaining games are easy – not that anything is easy for this team – the Bulls also face former coach Tom Thibodeau and the Knicks three times over the final 10 days.

Since Thibodeau was fired by Gar/Pax he has haunted his old organization with a 12-5 record against them in Minnesota and New York.

2. Long-range issues – The Bulls defense has been slipping since a hot December and January, but a season-long issue remains the number of threes they allow. Opposing teams are shooting 11.2 corner threes per game (2nd most) and hitting 42% (2nd highest), while shooting 28.5 threes from above the break per game (4th most). Atlanta showed Monday they can get hot from outside, going 19-of-40 from three.

3. Tired legs – Reserve Torrey Craig is still dealing with a sore knee, Alex Caruso has been banged up since training camp, DeRozan leads the league in total minutes played and Coby White was third in that category. The Bulls are crawling to the finish line, and can they even find another gear for the play-in tournament?

Joe Cowley

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