Bulls News: Nikola Vucevic Talks CHI's Playoff Picture After Loss to Knicks

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistApril 29, 2021

New York Knicks guard Derrick Rose (4) shoots next to Chicago Bulls center Nikola Vucevic (9) during the fourth quarter of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, April 28, 2021, in New York. (Vincent Carchietta/Pool Photo via AP)
Vincent Carchietta/Associated Press

The Chicago Bulls put together a valiant effort on Wednesday night against the New York Knicks. However, they fell short in the final quarter, being outscored 37-19 in the final frame and ultimately losing 113-94.

The loss puts the Bulls two games behind the Washington Wizards in the Eastern Conference and in jeopardy of missing the play-in tournament. Unfortunately for Chicago, standout guard Zach LaVine is expected to remain sidelined and in COVID-19 protocol.

"I still think he's got a little bit of time away from us," coach Billy Donovan said Wednesday, per Jamal Collier of the Chicago Tribune.

With only 10 games remaining on their regular-season schedule, the Bulls have an uphill battle with the postseason still a priority.

The good news for Chicago is that there's still hope. While the Bulls sit in the No. 11 spot in the Eastern Conference, they're not far off out of the playoff mix. Because of the shortened 72-game season, the top 10 teams can qualify for the postseason with seed Nos. 7-10 participating in a play-in tournament.

The bad news is that Wednesday night's loss puts Chicago two games out with a tough road ahead. Eight of the final 10 games are against conference playoff teams, and LaVine isn't expected back in the immediate future.

The late-game collapse against New York could prove costly, and the Bulls know it.

"We put ourselves in a more difficult position than we were," center Nikola Vucevic said, per Collier (h/t Yahoo). "But there's no point in us looking back at it and thinking about what could've been or what we could've done differently."

The absence of LaVine has certainly hurt, as the All-Star has been out since April 14. Chicago, meanwhile, has lost six of its last 10 games.

Losses to struggling teams like the Orlando Magic, Cleveland Cavaliers and Minnesota Timberwolves have been particularly painful.

The Bulls now sit two games behind the Wizards, three wins behind the Indiana Pacers and four wins behind the No. 8-seed Charlotte Hornets. There's still hope—and there would still be with a normal playoff format—but the sledding will be rough.

Chicago plays the No. 3-seed Milwaukee Bucks on Friday, the fifth-seed Atlanta Hawks on Saturday and the No. 2-seed Philadelphia 76ers on Sunday. Then, there's a Monday-night matchup with the Hornets on Monday.

If the Bulls don't start stringing together wins soon, they could be out of the playoff mix before the play-in tournament even gets off the ground.

"We'll continue to fight until the end and hopefully we make it. And if we don't, we'll have to learn from that," Vucevic said, per Collier.

Looking back won't do the Bulls any good, unless they're looking back in late May on how they managed to push themselves into the postseason.