What does this mean? Let’s break it down.
The Bulls, and the rest of the NBA, are in the midst of “group play” — the first stage of the NBA’s in-season tournament. Everyone in the league has been assigned to a group in their respective conference—five teams per group between six groups league-wide.
The Nets currently lead group play after defeating the Bulls on Friday. The Bulls have three more games to improve their standing. They play the Magic at home on Nov. 17, then the Raptors on Nov. 24 and the Celtics on Nov. 28, the latter two, of which, are road games.
Once each team in the cohort finishes group play, one team will advance to the eight-team tournament — the real in-season tournament. It’s a single-elimination tournament between the six winners of each group, plus two wild card teams.
The wild card will include one team from each conference with the best record in group play games that finished second in its group. Those teams will duke it out in single-elimination until a winner is crowned. The semifinal and final matchup will take place in Las Vegas to determine the winner of the first NBA Cup.
Going back to the Bulls, starting off with a loss is a difficult way to navigate group play. Because there are only four games before each group winner is decided, they don’t have much time to make up the ground they lost Friday.
Still, they have a chance to earn the best record, as of this writing, or tie a team for the best. The tiebreakers for teams with the same record from group play start with the better head-to-head record, then the better point differential, then the higher total points from group play. If those fail, the better regular-season record will determine the team that advances.
The Bulls endured a rough start to group play, but there’s still hope for them to advance to the real tournament. That journey begins Nov. 17 when the Bulls play their second in-season tournament game against the Magic.