EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. --With Friday night's 127-116 double-overtime loss to the New Jersey Nets, the Chicago Bulls put themselves in the most precarious of positions. They are tied with the Toronto Raptors for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Since they play Toronto on Sunday night at the Air Canada Centre, they have set themselves up for essentially a play-in game against the Raptors because Toronto owns the tiebreaker between the two teams.
Basically, the entire Bulls season comes down to Sunday night.
"Yeah, it is," Del Negro said. "All these games your season's on the line. That's the way it's set up right now. That's the position we're in. You usually get what you deserve. We turned it over. We didn't make free throws. If we handled that a little bit better, it would be a different story. Now we got to stick together. Handle this, get our energy back, and go at it for Sunday."
Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich didn't seem worried about the Bulls' ability to bounce back.
"You have to," he said. "The season's on the line. It's basically win or go home. We need this win. And hopefully we'll have one of our better performances."
Bulls point guard Derrick Rose is hopeful that his team will be able to remedy some things at practice on Saturday afternoon.
"This next [game] is going to be very important," he said. "And we need it."
Miller plays well: What will surely get lost in the shuffle of Friday night's loss is that Brad Miller might have played his best game of the season. The veteran center scored 27 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in 43 minutes. "He played well," Del Negro said. "Brad knows how to play. He's going to make shots. Hit the three. Got a steal. Got to the free-throw line. He was giving it everything he had."
Noah sits late: At the beginning of overtime, Bulls center Joakim Noah was not on the floor. "He's at a 35-minute limit," Del Negro said. "I think he was at 35:50 or somewhere in there. I had to get him out of the game, and that's what I needed to do."
Rose is optimistic: The 21-year-old All-Star took a glass half-full approach to the entire situation as the Bulls head into Sunday's make-or-break game with the Raptors. "I hope this is going to make us stronger right here," he said. "Playing these games is hopefully going to get us prepared for the future and that's the playoffs. I know it's going to be tough. But, we just got to fight through it. And just keep our heads on right now."