Chicago Bulls Clinch Playoff Berth with Win over Nets

Alec Nathan@@AlecBNathanFeatured ColumnistApril 13, 2017

SACRAMENTO, CA - FEBRUARY 6: Jimmy Butler #21 and Dwyane Wade #3 of the Chicago Bulls high five during the game against the Sacramento Kings on February 6, 2017 at Golden 1 Center in Sacramento, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)
Rocky Widner/Getty Images

The 2016-17 regular season wasn't always kind to the Chicago Bulls, but they will be playing in the playoffs following a 112-73 win over the Brooklyn Nets at United Center on Wednesday night. 

By virtue of that result and the Indiana Pacers' win over the Atlanta Hawks, the Bulls clinched the Eastern Conference's No. 8 seed and set up a first-round date with the Boston Celtics

While the Bulls have encountered their fair share of struggles throughout the year, they were able to string together some timely wins down the stretch to wedge their way into playoff position. 

Specifically, Chicago rebounded from a 2-7 start to March to close out the month 4-2 before they won five of seven in April. 

That resilience pushed the Bulls into the thick of the playoff race alongside the Indiana Pacers and Miami Heat, and a closing stretch that featured four games against the Brooklyn Nets, Philadelphia 76ers and Orlando Magic opened the door for a return to the postseason party. 

The achievement also represents a small bit of redemption for head coach Fred Hoiberg—who missed the playoffs in his first year with the Bulls as they finished in the Eastern Conference's No. 9 seed at 42-40 a season ago. 

However, the Bulls still have a big hill to climb with a first-round matchup against the Celtics looming. 

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If there's good news for the Bulls, it's that they showed an ability to hang with the Celtics, as they split the season series two games apiece. Boston, though, won the most recent meeting on March 12 by 20 points. 

Additionally, both of Chicago's losses against the Celtics came on the road—which is problematic considering Brad Stevens' squad will have the luxury of home-court advantage. 

Plus, history isn't exactly on the Bulls' side, as ESPN Stats & Info noted: 

In other words, the Bulls have their work cut out for them. 

Although Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade—who returned to action Saturday following an extended absence due to a fractured right elbow—are a formidable one-two punch who can make waves, the Bulls have ranked as one of the league's worst three-point-shooting teams all year long. 

Based on those inefficiencies and the team's lack of legitimate floor spacers alongside Butler and Wade, an upset against such a well-oiled offensive machine seems like a rather daunting proposition. 

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