The Chicago Bulls have announced that Zach LaVine has been downgraded from probable to questionable for Tuesday night’s matchup against the Milwaukee Bucks. LaVine has been battling knee soreness since early January.
If LaVine misses any of the final four games, the Bulls would need one of their role players to step up to avoid slipping in the standings. The Bulls are currently the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference, though they are tied with the Toronto Raptors, who are in sixth. Chicago needs two wins to lock up the fifth seed, but can still fall into the Eastern Conference play-in tournament with three losses in the final four games.
LaVine averaging 24 points, four rebounds and four assists while shooting 47% from the field and 39% from three. His numbers have dipped compared to the beginning of the season, following the knee injury in January. His output in the first half of the season made him appear to be a lock for an All-NBA Team selection. If selected, he would be eligible for the NBA “super-max” contract. But as of now, LaVine will likely not make the team.
LaVine has been trying to battle through his knee issues as the Bulls are set to end their six-year playoff drought this season. This will be LaVine’s first playoff appearance in his eight-year career.
LaVine sat out Monday’s practice in what head coach Billy Donovan dubbed as precaution. Donovan didn’t sound concerned about LaVine’s status following the team’s practice. The head coach has emphasized since the All-Star break that the team will handle LaVine’s status on a day-to-day basis. Tuesday night’s game is the front end of a back-to-back for Chicago, with the second leg being against the Boston Celtics on Wednesday.
The Bucks are already 3-0 against the Bulls this season, and another win for Giannis Antetokounmpo would set the stage for this being a first-round playoff matchup. If the Bucks can hang onto third place and the Bulls drop to sixth, that could end up being Chicago’s fate, which would arguably be the least-favorable playoff pairing of all.
Toronto will finish the season against the Hawks, 76ers, Rockets and Knicks, with three of those four games coming at home. Two straight losses from the Bulls, which is very realistic whether LaVine is on the court or not, could have them facing an earlier than expected postseason exit.