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It wasn’t supposed to end like this for the 2021-22 Chicago Bulls.

After bringing in DeMar DeRozan, Lonzo Ball, and Alex Caruso last offseason, the Bulls had their sights set on a deep run through the Eastern Conference playoffs. The plan was going accordingly after a 26-10 start put them right at the top of the East standings, but a 7-15 finish to the regular season dropped them back to the No. 6 seed entering the postseason.

Now, Chicago is just one loss away from a first-round exit, and unexpected losses to Caruso and Zach LaVine will surely be the final death blow.

Alex Caruso and Zach LaVine both ruled out for Game 5

The Bulls have dealt with a plethora of injury issues all season long. Caruso, Ball, and Patrick Williams missed 153 games combined in the regular season, and only three players on the roster appeared in more than 70 games. The inconsistency in the lineup every night made it hard for the new-look Bulls to build chemistry throughout the year.

Unfortunately for Chicago, injuries have followed the team all the way to the playoffs. Ball had already been ruled out months earlier with a torn meniscus, but now the Bulls will be missing two more starters for a must-win Game 5 against the Bucks.

Caruso, who suffered a head injury in Game 4 after getting hit in the face by an inadvertent elbow, is still in concussion protocol and was ruled out by the team on Wednesday morning. He left Game 4 early with a bloody nose and never returned.

And in an unlucky development, LaVine entered the NBA’s COVID-19 health and safety protocols Tuesday after experiencing symptoms in the morning. He was also ruled out for Game 5 on Wednesday.

A death blow to the Bulls’ disappointing season

Alex Caruso talks with Zach LaVine.
Alex Caruso and Zach LaVine of the Chicago Bulls talk during a game against the Miami Heat | Michael Reaves/Getty Images

The Chicago Bulls Took a Gut Punch From the Milwaukee Bucks and Gave One Right Back

Chicago’s season would likely be over already if not for LaVine and Caruso. Both players were instrumental in the Bulls’ Game 2 win on the road against the Bucks. LaVine put up 20 points on 7-of-13 from the field and 3-of-4 from three, while Caruso was a menace on the defensive end all night. The former Los Angeles Laker finished the game with two steals and two blocks while frustrating Giannis Antetokounmpo all night. He also chipped in a game-high 10 assists.

The Bulls needed both LaVine and Caruso to simply avoid an embarrassing sweep, and they have little to no chance of keeping the series alive without them in Game 5. With just a few hours left until the 7:30 p.m. ET tipoff, the Bucks currently stand as 12.5-point home favorites over the undermanned Bulls.

When Chicago put together its revamped roster for the 2021-22 season, the franchise didn’t envision a first-round exit. Due to some bad luck at the worst possible time, that’s unfortunately where things are headed.

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