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Dwyane Wade and the Chicago Bulls head into the final day of the regular season with their playoff fate still undecided as three teams vie for the final two spots in the Eastern Conference.
The host Bulls can clinch their spot Wednesday with a win over the NBA-worst Brooklyn Nets.
Chicago would already have its spot secured if it could consistently win against teams below it in the standings, but losses to the New York Knicks and the Nets – 107-106 in Brooklyn on Saturday – in the last eight days make the finale more important.
The Bulls bounced back from that loss in Brooklyn by crushing another sub-.500 team with a 122-75 demolition of the Orlando Magic on Monday.
“When you come into the season, your goal is to make the playoffs,” Wade told reporters. “That’s what our goal continues to be through it all. Whether we were playing well, then we were playing bad, whatever the heck was going on, at the end of the day, you want yourself in a position to make the playoffs.”
The Nets aren’t the walkover they were earlier in the season and come into the finale winners of seven of their last 12 and played the first-place Boston Celtics tough in a 114-105 road loss on Monday.
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ABOUT THE NETS (20-61): Brooklyn is playing strong down the stretch despite having nothing left for which to play, and veteran center Brook Lopez is leading the charge.
The Stanford product scored 25 points in Monday’s loss to pass Buck Williams (10,440 points) as the franchise’s leading scorer.
“That’s awesome; I’m really happy for him,” point guard Jeremy Lin told reporters of Lopez’s accomplishment. “If I could describe Brook in one word, it’d be consistency. He brings it every night. I’m glad I got to be a part of that. I wish I knew it while it happened.”
ABOUT THE BULLS (40-41): Consistency is something Chicago has lacked all season, and All-Star swingman Jimmy Butler is hoping the whole team realizes the magnitude of Wednesday’s contest.
“I just want everybody to lock in and realize how important this game is,” Butler told reporters. “We’re not counting on anybody else. We control our own destiny. Win the game.”
The Bulls have Wade (elbow) back in the lineup for the finale but could be missing point guard Rajon Rondo (wrist) for the fourth straight game.
- Bulls PF Bobby Portis is shooting 60.5 percent from the field, including 7-of-13 from 3-point range, over the last five games.
- Nets SF Rondae Hollis-Jefferson recorded a double-double in each of the last two games.
- Chicago took three straight and five of six in the series before falling in Brooklyn on Saturday.
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