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Bulls will face Wizards in playoffs, Game 1 on Sunday

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Updated: April 16, 2014 10:31PM

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — So it’s the Washington Wizards.

Who cares if the Bulls are going into the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs off a 91-86 overtime loss Wednesday against the Charlotte Bobcats? It’s the playoffs. It’s a No.  4 seed. It’s home-court advantage in the first round and a chance to face off against the top-seeded Indiana Pacers in Round 2.

In some ways, it’s actually pretty remarkable.

After losing star Derrick Rose on Nov. 22 after just 10 games, then trading Luol Deng in early January, this team was left for dead.

Even after losing two of their last three games, they finished with 48 victories.

“Before you start asking any questions, I would like to say I appreciate my teammates for a hard season,’’ Noah said. “We worked our [butts] off. Even though it ends on a sad note, losing to the Bobcats, overall we gave it everything we had. And there are no regrets in that. Like my boy Mike Dunleavy just told me, this is the fruit of our labor. Now we will have fun in the playoffs. I agree with him on that note.

“I’m not going to lie: This is the hardest season I think I’ve ever been a part of physically and mentally. But overall I’m just really proud of everybody, all the work that people put in. You could just tell after every practice; everybody was shooting. Everybody put in extra work to get their games in order. Now the playoffs are the icing on the cake. As competitors, that’s what you want. You want to play in the playoffs. I think we put ourselves in a pretty good position. I’m really proud to be a part of this team. Seriously, I’ve never been around a group of guys that work so hard.’’

But if they want the journey to continue, that work needs to be amped up a bit. With Game 1 against the Wizards scheduled for Sunday at the United Center, they’re getting a team that won two of three from them in the regular season.

But in the last meeting in Washington on April 5, the Bulls won 96-78, and the Wizards seemed to be allergic to physical contact.

“Tough team, man. Tough, tough team,’’ reserve big man Taj Gibson said. “They gave us so many problems in the regular season. Great shooters, great bigs in Nene and [Marcin] Gortat. John Wall is playing some great basketball; Bradley Beal is playing great, too. Their bench is even loaded up. It’s going to be tough, man.’’

Maybe, but the Bulls go in healthy. Even more important, they go in with that chip on their shoulder and experience.

“They’re definitely a tough matchup,’’ Noah said. “It’s not going to be easy. Every game will be a tough battle. But I think we’re a team that’s battle-tested. We know what it takes. It’s exciting. You never know what’s going to happen in the playoffs. I just can’t wait to compete.’’


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