The Bulls are treating the season finale against the Brooklyn Nets like any other game, even though a playoff berth is on the line.
Same preparation, same way they're going about things and despite the Nets resting the top six players on a team that's only won 20 games, the Bulls are saying all the right things about respecting their opponent.
But it's difficult to do so when the Nets are letting their main talent, guys like Jeremy Lin and Brook Lopez for starters, sport their finest threads as opposed to trying to play spoiler for the Bulls at the United Center.
It certainly seemed probable the Nets could beat the Bulls for the second time in five days but the talent that they'll roll out tonight doesn't match up with what the Bulls have, even if the talent is underachieving.
"Well, the big thing is, it doesn't change our approach," Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. "We have a gameplan in place for whoever takes the floor for Brooklyn. We know it's a group that's going to come out and play extremely hard and they're going to play with great pace. Our coverages change a little bit just based on some of the things we think they'll do, but it's going to be a high-level game. We need to go out and approach it just like last week. Get a defensive mindset, hopefully get off to a great start and sustain it for 48 minutes."
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No word on whether Hoiberg sent Nets coach Kenny Atkinson a gift basket to the team hotel when the Nets arrived, helping Hoiberg likely clinch his first playoff spot since taking over as Bulls coach in 2015.
But whatever Hoiberg's internal feelings are, he's telling his team it can't let its guard down against an undermanned ballclub. Even though it seems highly unlikely, the Bulls could lose and miss out on the postseason for the second straight year—but that would be outright lunacy at this point.
"Our team understands what's at stake. It's obviously a win or go home type game," Hoiberg said. "They understand the urgency, the effort that we have to come out with. Again, I loved our approach in the game the other night. We have to do the same thing, the same mentality, coming out, hopefully getting off to a great start. We're a much better team when that happens. Hopefully our guys, you know, again, they've done a good job in this recent stretch and hopefully that doesn't change."