Thad Young: Bulls missing playoffs would be 'smack in the face'

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Rob Schaefer
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Young: Bulls missing playoffs would be 'big smack in the face' originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

The Bulls enter Monday's road matchup against the Miami Heat at a make-or-break point.

As of Sunday's slate of games, they've fallen two games back of the red-hot Washington Wizards for the final play-in spot in the East. For the seventh straight game, they'll be without Zach LaVine, whose COVID-19 protocol enlistment is set to run at least through the end of the current road trip.

Their destiny is out of their hands. And with ten of their final 12 games coming against teams in the top eight of the Eastern Conference, missing the play-in altogether looms as increasingly possible. That's a far cry from where players, coaches and management thought the team would be just over one month after an active trade deadline that saw them swing a deal for Nikola Vučević.

"It would definitely be a big smack (to miss the playoffs), but we’re definitely aware of where we are and what’s going on," Thad Young said after Monday morning shootaround. "[Washington is] playing really good basketball, and we’ve got to figure out ways to win basketball games. Biggest thing for us is obviously you want to pay attention, but not pay too much attention, and just let the games play out, play as many games as we have left and try and win all of them. But our approach to every game has to be the same: Win at all costs because everything is on the line from this day forward. It’s been on the line...

"But it definitely would be a big smack in the face if we made all these changes and adjustments to our team, and we can’t follow through or push through into the playoffs.’’

Young doesn't mice words, or miss the mark, with that assessment. The Bulls flipped two lightly protected future first-round picks -- including this season's selection -- and Wendell Carter Jr. for Vučević in pursuit of boosting their playoff standing now, and laying the cultural foundation for success later. For a variety of reasons -- adjusting to new roster pieces on the fly, injuries, LaVine's absence, shoddy defense, a pattern of lacking urgency, general underperformance, and on down the line -- neither has come to fruition.

Time is running out to turn it around for this season. To do so, the Bulls must flip the script on their current 8-26 record against teams with records currently at or above .500 and hope for some luck as they battle out against two teams in the Raptors (tied for 11th) and Wizards (winners of nine of their last 10 games) against whom they own tiebreakers.

"We’re looking at each and every game really as a must-win situation," Young said. "We have to start by going out there and beating a really good team tonight, but just have to believe and continue to go out there and play."

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