MINNEAPOLIS – With starters on both sides watching as spectators, an 82-game full of early highs and late lows came to an end for the Bulls with a victory Sunday evening.
With Patrick Williams and Ayo Dosunmu leading the way with heavy production and playing time, they were able to knock off the Timberwolves 124-120 at the Target Center. It was the team’s 46th victory of the season compared to 36 losses, with the former coming mostly in the first half and the latter the last month and a half.
Those recent struggles have been more on fan’s minds recently as the Bulls have failed to find their footing against the elite teams in the league. That along with the season-ending injury to Lonzo Ball has lowered expectations significantly for the group, with hopes they’ll just be competitive in a first round series.
That’s going to be a challenge for the team as they open up the 2022 NBA Playoffs with the defending NBA Champions.
With the sixth seed locked in, the Bulls will now face the third-seeded Bucks in their first playoff appearance since the 2016-2017 season. It will be the fifth time the teams have met in the playoffs with the last coming in 2015, when the Bucks began building their championship team around Giannis Antetokounmpo.
It was the last Bulls’ playoff series win as they were able to capture the first three games of the series, lost Game 4 and 5, then closed out the series in Milwaukee at the Bradley Center in Game 6. That team led by Tom Thibodeau would fall to the eventual Eastern Conference champion Cavaliers in the second round in what would be the last hurrah for the coach’s era with the team.
Unlike seven years ago, the Bulls figure to be heavy underdogs in this series as the Bucks finished their regular season 51-31 and in a tie for second in the Eastern Conference. But the Celtics won the tie-breaker, which means that Milwaukee starts their championship defense against the Bulls.
The Bulls lost all four games to Milwaukee this season, with the last two in the second half of the season being decisive blowouts. On March 22nd, the Bulls were down by 16 points at the half at Fiserv Forum and never recovered in a 126-98 defeat. Last Tuesday’s match-up at the United Center wasn’t much better, with the Bulls falling behind early again in a 127-106 defeat.
Earlier games were a little closer, with the Bucks winning 94-90 on January 21st in Milwaukee and then again on March 4th in a 118-112 decision in Chicago.