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NBA 2021: Play-in tournament gives Bulls some hope

Four defeats in the space of a week have left the Chicago Bulls looking nervously over their shoulders with 18 games of the regular season remaining.

The Bulls’ 115-106 defeat against Orlando Magic took them to 22-32 for the campaign and left them tenth in the Eastern Conference.

Barring a miracle, they can forget about grabbing a top-six spot and a guaranteed place in the first round of the best of seven play-offs.

However, they are in with a reasonable chance of finishing in the top ten which would secure a place in the play-in tournament.

Toronto Raptors are currently breathing down their necks, with Washington Wizards and Cleveland Cavaliers also close enough to do some damage with a quarter of the campaign remaining.

With that in mind, the next four games could make-or-break the Bulls’ hopes booking a spot in the end-of-season shoot-out. Read on as we look at what’s in store over the next few days.

Memphis Grizzlies (H)

The Grizzlies ran out 101-90 winners when the two teams met earlier this month, ending a six-game losing streak against the Bulls.

They have been going reasonably well in the Western Conference, although inconsistency has blighted their hopes of finishing in the top six.

This is a game that the Bulls are perfectly capable of winning on their home court, but only if they step things up after their recent dismal run of results.

Cleveland Cavaliers (H)

The term ‘must-win game’ is often overused in top-class sport, but it can certainly be applied to the Bulls’ meeting with the Cavaliers.

The Bulls were beaten 103-94 by the Cavaliers during March after producing a performance that angered head coach Billy Donovan.

Chicago can ill-afford a repeat of that result and a victory here would give them valuable breathing space over the Cavaliers heading down the closing stretch.

Boston Celtics (A)

A trip to Boston to face the Celtics is undoubtedly the toughest test the Bulls will face over their next four fixtures.

The Celtics have won eight of their last nine games against the Bulls and will fancy their chances of enhancing that record in their latest meeting.

The Bulls have been marginally better on the road than at home this season, but it is difficult to imagine anything other than a Boston win in this one.

Cleveland Cavaliers (A)

If things do go wrong in Boston, the fixture list offers the Bulls an immediate chance to make amends with another game against the Cavaliers.

The Bulls triumphed 118-106 on their last visit to Cleveland in January 2020 and will be favourites to pick up another two points here.

With a tricky run of fixtures to follow, the Bulls desperately need to win at least three of their next four games to keep their faint play-off hopes alive.

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