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Apr 12, 2024 5:58 am

Bulls, secure as East’s No. 9, square off with Wizards

chicago bulls

With home-court advantage in the Eastern Conference’s No. 9 vs. No. 10 play-in game sealed, the Chicago Bulls will look to maintain momentum as they visit the Washington Wizards on Friday.

Chicago, with a 127-105 road rout of the Detroit Pistons on Thursday, clinched the No. 9 seed in the East and home-court edge for its matchup with No. 10 Atlanta last week. The Bulls capitalized on the Hawks’ 115-114 loss to the Charlotte Hornets on Wednesday.

The Thursday blowout opened a three-game, regular-season-ending road swing for the Bulls (38-42).

Chicago’s DeMar DeRozan scored 39 points at Detroit for his third consecutive game of 30-plus points. Nikola Vucevic recorded his 43rd double-double of the season, collecting 27 points and 11 rebounds.

“We wanted to make sure we secured that first game at home in front of our fans. We need it,” DeRozan told NBC Sports Chicago following the win. “Redeem ourselves. We’re playing for everything.”

Chicago won the regular-season series against Atlanta 2-1. As the No. 9 and No. 10 seed, the Bulls and Hawks each need two wins in the play-in round to advance to the playoffs. The Bulls will try to go into the play-in meeting on a winning streak with their final games at Washington on Friday and at New York on Sunday.

Washington (15-65) heads into its final two games of the season guaranteed the worst record in franchise history, both in terms of total losses and win percentage. The previous lows belonged to the 2000-01 and 2008-09 Wizards, both of whom finished 19-63; and the 1961-62 Chicago Packers, who posted a .225 winning percentage at 18-62 over an 80-game regular season.

The 2023-24 Wizards will not finish with the NBA’s worst record this season, however — not alone, anyway. Washington maintains a two-game lead over Detroit at the bottom of the East going into the final weekend.

Though the Wizards ride a four-game losing streak into their final two games, they have been competitive lately. All four setbacks were by single-digit-point margins, including a 130-121 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves on Tuesday in Minneapolis.

Washington built a 21-point lead, but Anthony Edwards’ eruption for 51 points fueled the Timberwolves’ comeback.

Corey Kispert scored 25 points in the loss, and Jordan Poole added 24. Kispert, who is averaging 13.3 points per game for the season, has scored at least 21 points in four of his past seven outings.

Poole has scored 20-plus points and drilled at least three 3-pointers in four straight games, and he has averaged nine assists and 1.4 steals over the past five games. Poole’s playmaking is one of the positives that interim coach Brian Keefe hopes the team can build on going into the offseason.

“It’s just the growth of our team,” Keefe said. “We’re learning what it takes to get good shots for us on offense, and we’ve got guys who get downhill and make plays for others. We’re growing in those terms, learning what our identity is and building on that.”

–Field Level Media

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