Friday, April 19, 2024

Chicago’s Play-In Tournament Bid Almost Locked With Breaking News


The Chicago Bulls are headed down the home stretch for the second consecutive season with Play-In Tournament aspirations. Currently in the ninth seed in the Eastern Conference standings with a 26-30 record, they’re 5.5 games out of sixth place, avoiding the tournament altogether, and five games ahead of 11th place, meaning they’d miss the postseason entirely. With new injury news surfacing earlier today within the tightly contested Play-In Tournament race standings, the Bulls now have a much easier path to securing a chance to play in the single-elimination tournament for a playoff spot and potentially hosting the first of two must-win games.

Trae Young Out For Four Weeks

The Atlanta Hawks were the latest victim of the injury bug, seeing their lone All-Star, leading scorer, and leading assist man go down with a tear in his fifth finger on his left hand. He is set to undergo surgery in the coming days and will be assessed in a month as to whether or not he can return this season. Holding the tenth seed in the Eastern Conference by three games over the Brooklyn Nets barreling into the final third of the 2023-24 campaign, this could not have come at a worse time for the Hawks.

Without their three-time All-Star leader in Young, Atlanta will play at least 15 games until his subsequent evaluation. The Bulls, Hawks, Nets, and Raptors are all within six games of one another and could see a massive shift in the coming weeks. None of the four teams are better than 5-5 in their last ten, but this news could spark a new life in the two teams on the outside looking in.

Most Likely Play-In Scenario

With a five-game cushion on the Nets and Raptors and the Hawks seemingly out of the picture, the Bulls will likely return to the Play-In Tournament again this year. If they can secure the ninth seed, the first game would be played in the United Center, contrary to last year’s victory in Toronto to begin their playoff journey. A trip to Miami, Indiana, Orlando, or Philadelphia is the most plausible matchup if they are victorious. The winner would advance to the postseason as the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference. In last year’s chance to move on, the Bulls fell short in Miami thanks to a career performance from Max Strus and late heroics by Jimmy Butler. The Heat would go on to the NBA Finals and fall short to the reigning Champion Denver Nuggets.

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This closely contested Play-In matchup from last April has given Chicago’s front office false hope that the Bulls can contend with anyone in the conference. Miami’s Cinderella run was fueled by their defensive abilities and Butler’s grit, a player that the Bulls do not have even close to the caliber of. Without any playoff experience beyond the Eastern Conference Finals on the roster outside of Alex Caruso, missing their top-scoring option Zach LaVine, and Patrick Williams sidelined for the remainder of this season, they will probably mirror the result from a season ago.

Get ready for another hopeful run through the Play-In Tournament. Barring a complete collapse, Trae Young’s injury has all but guaranteed Chicago’s postseason berth.

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